AUSTRALIA may boost its troop numbers in Afghanistan under a new surge strategy drafted by the US to crush a revived Taliban insurgency.
The news comes amid fresh security fears after at least seven people were killed in a bombing at the luxury Kabul hotel that houses the Australian embassy.
Australia would withdraw about half of its 1,000 troops from Iraq and consider sending them to Afghanistan if the government changes at elections next week, an opposition lawmaker said Friday.
Joel Fitzgibbon, the opposition Labor Party’s defence spokesman, said 550 combat troops currently in Iraq were a “misallocation of resources,” and could be redeployed to Afghanistan."
AUSTRALIA is preparing to send hundreds more troops to Afghanistan's southern Oruzgan province, where deadly contacts with Taliban fighters have escalated in recent months.
By the middle of next year, Australia - whether under a Labor or Coalition government - will have more troops on the ground in Afghanistan than it does in Iraq.
A commitment for a slight increase in the number of Australian troops based at Tarin Kowt as part of a reconstruction force is expected before the election because of a withdrawal of troops from The Netherlands.
In addition to an increase in troops to replace the Dutch soldiers, a mortar team has just been dispatched, 110 crew and support staff for two Chinook helicopters are preparing to go and there are plans for increased RAAF surveillance over southern Afghanistan.
Australia has about 970 military in Afghanistan, including infantry and special forces as well as an RAAF air traffic control group based at Kandahar. The final figure next year will depend on how many troops the Dutch withdraw, and to what extent Australians fill the gap.
AUSTRALIAN reconstruction troops in Afghanistan have come under heavy attack twice in recent days in sustained and co-ordinated assaults forming their toughest challenge yet from Taliban fighters.
Until now, the reconstruction troops — unlike Australian special forces — have not been involved in intense combat.
No Australians were injured in the attacks, but a number of Taliban fighters were killed, their forces repelled with the support of armoured vehicles and helicopter gunships.