CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — The Australian government plans to nearly double its military deployment to Afghanistan by sending 400 additional soldiers, Prime Minister John Howard said today.
The Australian Defense Forces is to add the troops to its contingent of 550 currently in Afghanistan by mid-2007. It is to add an additional 50 by the middle of 2008, bringing the deployment to about 1,000, Howard told reporters.
Howard, a staunch ally in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism, would not rule out sending even more troops if the need arose.
He said the troops would be sent to the central province of Oruzgan, where a 200-member Australian special forces task group operated for a year.
"Their role will be to enhance provincial security by disrupting Taliban command-and-control supply routes, and they will directly support the Australian reconstruction task force," he said, referring to the Islamic fundamentalist militant group.