Australia Considers Accelerating Afghanistan Mission
Australian Defense Minister John Faulkner said he and military chiefs are examining how to speed up completing the training of local forces in Afghanistan, as the U.S. reviews its war strategy in the countr, Bloomberg reported.
Faulkner told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that while he hasn't put a "timeline on completing the training task," he has asked the military for recommendations about ensuring it's completed in the "shortest time frame possible."
The Defense Department said Faulkner wasn't exploring an early exit strategy for the 1,550 Australian soldiers under NATO command in Afghanistan. As well as training the fourth brigade of the Afghan National Army, Australia has special forces in the country fighting a resurgent Taliban and is involved in logistics operations for NATO. Australia hasn't set a date for the withdrawal of its forces from the country.
About 120 extra soldiers sent to provide security for the August presidential election will remain for a runoff ballot, said Faulkner, who leaves today for a NATO conference in Bratislava, Slovakia. "That commitment is absolutely clear," he added.
Afghanistan will head to the polls again on Nov. 7 to choose between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, after a United Nations- backed investigation into the Aug. 20 vote found widespread fraud.
President Barack Obama is examining options for the Afghan war after his commander there, General Stanley McChrystal, warned that the U.S. risks failure without doing more to protect the local population. McChrystal has completed an assessment of the situation in the country and may seek as many as 40,000 more soldiers.
McChrystal's assessment has "implications for the way Australia will approach our task," Faulkner told the ABC, without elaborating.