Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says his government is “open” to sending more troops to Afghanistan, as requested by the United States.
Turnbull said on Friday that he was considering providing additional resources to Afghanistan, where Australia currently has stationed almost 300 troopers for training and advising Afghan forces.
“We are certainly open to increasing our work there,” Turnbull said but did not specify the details of a request made US Defense Secretary James Mattis during a visit to Afghanistan late last month.
“It is very important that we, and our other allies in the effort in Afghanistan, continue to work together to build up the capacity of Afghanistan’s own security forces so that they can keep that country secure from the threat of terrorism,” he said on Friday.
Turnbull said, however, that his government first had to examine its existing defense commitments in the region and other parts of the world.
Australian troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan for at least two more years.
The US State Department recommended earlier this month that 3,000 to 5,000 additional troopers be sent to Afghanistan. US officials claimed that the military needed a bigger role in the Asian country to push the Taliban militant group back to the negotiating table. They have also called for authority to target Taliban leaders in airstrikes.
NATO officials have called for new deployments to Afghanistan.
Germany, a member of the military alliance, has already refused to increase its troops or expand its military’s role in Afghanistan.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that her country will continue to lead NATO’s military training mission in Afghanistan but was not ready to take on more responsibilities there. In a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Merkel said she would wait to see the outcome of NATO’s assessment of a request from the alliance’s military authorities to send more troops to the Asian country.
NATO has currently about 13,450 troopers, including about 6,900 US military forces, in Afghanistan.
The military alliance announced an end to its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, but the push to increase the deployment now is an indication of how the military alliance is increasingly being drawn back into fighting in the country.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after more than one and a half decade, insecurity is high and foreign troops continue to be deployed to the country.
In addition to the Taliban, the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group has also gained ground and recruited militants across Afghanistan in the recent past.