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Australian government to deploy 150 extra troops to Afghanistan
The Australian government announced on Wednesday that it will sent another 150 troops to Afghanistan to provide extra security for a 240-strong force already deployed to Uruzgan province in the country’s volatile southern region as part of a Dutch-led Provincial Reconstruction Team. The 400-strong military force is to remain for two years at a cost of $366 million.
Prime Minister John Howard committed the extra troops despite widespread opposition to Australia’s continuing participation in the US-led occupation of Iraq and deepening concern over its involvement in other neo-colonial operations in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomons.
The additional soldiers include an infantry company of 120 soldiers equipped with light armoured vehicles. The Australian military already has a force of 300, including a 190-strong SAS special forces task force and 110 troops supporting two Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, operating in Afghanistan alongside US troops.
The extra combat soldiers and armoured vehicles testify to the growing armed resistance to the US-led occupation of Afghanistan, particularly in the Pashtun tribal areas of the south and east such as Uruzgan province.
In announcing the deployment, Howard admitted that security in Afghanistan was “the worst since the Taliban fell”. He warned that the soldiers faced “significant risks” and “the possibility of ADF [Australian Defence Force] casualties cannot be discounted”.