Turnbull 'open' to sending more Australian troops to Afghanistan


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday said the country is open to sending more troops to Afghanistan in response to a request by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Stoltenberg, who said that a decision on NATO's presence in Afghanistan was due "within weeks", stated that the alliance was not mulling over a return to combat missions in Afghanistan, but would focus on "train, assist and advise" missions.

The BBC said this could include deploying additional British troops as the United States looks to increase its presence by 3,000.

Most belong to a 13,300-strong North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission to train and advise Afghan partner forces fighting the Taliban.

In total there have been 456 British forces personnel or Ministry of Defence civilians killed while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.

During an April visit to the region, Mr Turnbull said Australia had a "long-term commitment" to the operation and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani??? said the Islamic State threat was now relentless and could multiply like "cancer cells".

Coats said that Afghanistan would struggle to decrease its reliance on the worldwide community "until it contains the insurgency or reaches a peace agreement with the Taliban".

Turnbull had met senior officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Defence Secretary of the US, James Mattis, in Kabul during a surprise visit to the region last month, Efe news reported.

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The West Australian understands Australia has received a request from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for a "small number" of new troops as fears grow about the deteriorating security situation and signs Islamic State is gaining a foothold in the country.

"Afghanistan will struggle to curb its dependence on external support until it contains the insurgency or reaches a peace agreement with the Taliban", Coats told lawmakers in presenting an annual assessment of threats to US national security.

Australian troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan for at least two more years.

The president is reportedly considering sending up to 5,000 more troops on the ground, stepping up strikes against the Taliban and increasing US investment in the war.

The Pentagon submitted its much-anticipated strategy proposal to the White House earlier this week, which would expand the USA military role in the fight against the Taliban and relax Obama-era restrictions on the movement of US military advisers on the battlefield. However, the White House press secretary made clear that there was no deadline for the strategy, nor did it give any indication on the number of troops the president wanted to send to Afghanistan.

Germany, a member of the military alliance, has already refused to increase its troops or expand its military's role in Afghanistan.

Officials in favor of the second option say the United States "don't fight other people's wars", and want to focus on preparing the Afghan military to fight ISIS itself.

There's a long-standing anecdote - perhaps apocryphal, but telling - involving the Taliban, where one fighter is reported to have said that, while the Americans have the watches, we (the Taliban) have the time.