Tuesday 24 Nov 2020 | 18:19 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 24 Nov 2020 | 18:19 | SYDNEY

Australia future in Afghanistan


Sam Roggeveen


27 November 2007 09:22

Somewhat lost in local media coverage of the election was the Dutch Government's apparent decision to extend its troop presence in Afghanistan by a further two years to 2010. I say 'apparent' because although the news leaked to the Dutch broadcaster NOS and was reported in Australia last Friday, it is still yet to be confirmed by the Dutch Government. If the report is confirmed, it will be one of several factors that might make Afghanistan a major foreign policy issue next year.

Dutch troops in Uruzgan province provide key capabilities, like attack helicopters and artillery, that protect Australian forces in the province. NATO would have had trouble finding replacement forces for Uruzgan, so withdrawal of the Dutch would have forced Australia to reconsider its commitment, either by moving to Kandahar or getting out of Afghanistan altogether.

If the Dutch have indeed committed to 2010, the new Rudd Government may even increase our Afghanistan troop numbers. Australia recently suffered its third combat death in Afghanistan, and with more troops in theatre, casualty rates could increase even if the tenuous security situation doesn't deteriorate. Add to that our withdrawal from Iraq and the consequent increased media focus on Australian forces in Afghanistan, and you have the ingredients for a rough 2008.

Nb. One minor upside to all this: the Dutch are buying more of our Bushmaster battle-trucks, largely because they need to replace the ones that were blown up by the Taliban. The trucks did their job, though, as the Dutch have not reported any casualties from roadside bombings.