Australia pledges to keep troops in Afghanistan for long-term 2008-02-22 16:38:07   Print

    CANBERRA, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Australia on Friday stated that it will keep its troops in Afghanistan for a long term, despite its decision to withdraw forces from Iraq, according to Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

    "We've made it very, very clear that our commitment in Afghanistan is a long-standing one," the defense minister told reporters.

    "I said in the parliament just this week what a tragedy it would be if all that we'd done in Afghanistan so far was in the end all for naught. So our commitment is a long-term one."

    Australia has deployed about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, a former Taliban stronghold.

    Australia's previous government had sent 2,000 troops to support U.S. and British forces in the Iraq invasion. But the new Australian government, elected in November last year, promised to pull out the country's combat troops from Iraq by mid-2008.

    On Wednesday, Australia Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told a Senate committee that the military is planning to withdrew 550 combat troops from Iraq.

    The Australian new pledge was made prior to a meeting by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte with their Australian counterparts on Saturday in Canberra.

    The meeting is expected to stress the commitment by the U.S. allies in the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan as some nations are hinting at pulling out.

    Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday announced to pull its 2,500 troops out of southern Afghanistan by 2011.

    NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Thursday called for more international commitment to the fight against the Taliban. 

Editor: An Lu
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