Australia Urged to Boost Military Commitment in Afghanistan
By Phil Mercer
27 April 2009

Australian forces in Afghanistan are urging the government in Canberra to send more combat advisers to the troubled country despite waning public support for the war. The International Security Assistance Force wants more Australian personnel to train and fight alongside the Afghan army.

Australian soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) keep guard on top of armored vehicles, in Tirin Kot, the capital of Oruzghan province, Afghanistan (File)

Australia's most senior army officer in Afghanistan says his troops are the best equipped to help prepare local forces to take greater responsibility for security.

Brigadier John Caligari says the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan wants to recruit more Australian combat advisers.

The brigadier thinks that Australia's approach to fighting Taliban militants has proved effective and should be used as blueprint by the Afghan army.

Australian troops have engaged in complex counter-insurgency operations in previous conflicts in Malaysia, Borneo and Vietnam and have copied the British practice of constant patrolling.

Caligari told Australia's national broadcaster, the ABC that long-term peace in Afghanistan depends on the effectiveness of local soldiers.

"What the national commander of operations for the international force in Afghanistan wants is more mentors; because it's the only we we're ever going to get out of here is going to be them to stand up and take responsibility for the security on their own," Caligari said.

Australia has about 1,100 troops in Afghanistan. The contingent includes a 440-strong mentoring and reconstruction task force that trains Afghan soldiers.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to increase Australia's military presence in Afghanistan, including expanding the training team.

Mr. Rudd says that victory against the insurgency in Afghanistan is critical and will prevent the troubled country becoming "a safe haven for the training of terrorists."

Ten Australia soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

Recent opinion polls show support for the war appears to be waning among Australians.

Anti-war activists say the war is bad in South Asia and goes "against Australia's broader security interests."