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Afghan Build-up: “We Might If You Will”

  • January 26th, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

helicopter-medivac-afghan-nato.jpgThe Australian government has given a first firm indication it might increase the country’s Afghanistan commitment – in step with a general build-up of NATO forces.

READY TO DO BATTLE WITH THE ALLIES

The Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, is scheduled to attend a Ministerial meeting of the NATO alliance, in Poland next month (19-20.2.09).

He told Australian radio this week Australia might consider a boost to its commitment of 1000 Army and Air Force personnel, if there was a tactical or strategic justification.

While the United States had indicated it would be sending more troops, there was still pressure on European powers to commit to an expansion.

“We are not prepared to do more just so more NATO countries can do less”, he said.

The Australian government has held off talking about any increase in troop numbers until now.

The Minister’s comments come amid reports of pressure from military sources for more helicopter support, for patrolling out of the reach of roadside bombs and for medical evacuation – and admitting the possibility such support could be provided by some of the allies.

NATO WANTS MORE

The NATO Secretary General, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, has told journalists at Brussels (19.1.09) that Afghanistan operations would continue to be a priority for the alliance.

He spoke of getting a “fair balance of burdens in this mission between the allies”, repeating earlier calls for some of the allied powers to “step up with more forces” – as well as sending more civil aid aimed at helping to stabilise the country.

NATO is providing the command structure for the international military effort in Afghanistan, to engage Taliban insurgents and protect reconstruction projects.

As well as the 26 NATO member countries, its ISAF operation in Afghanistan (International Security Assistance Force) takes in 14 other allies including Australia.

Reference:

ABC News (Australia), Fitzgibbon leaves door open for Afghan troop boost, 26.1.09. www.abc.net.au, (26.1.09)

North Atlantic treaty Organisation (NATO), NATO “Secretary General outlines 2009 highlights”, 19.1.09. http://www.nato.int/, (26.1.09).

NATO, “Informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers, Krakow, Poland, 19-20 February 2009”, 15.12.08.
http://www.nato.int/docu/pr/2008/p08-160e.html, (26.1.09)

Picture: Afghanistan, helicopter medical evacuation – NATO

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