Obama welcomes Australia’s decision to increase troops to Afghanistan

April 30, 2009 11:00 am 

WASHINGTON, April 30 — U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Australia's decision to increase troops to Afghanistan, saying Canberra's contribution is "critical" to prevent the central Asian country from becoming terrorists' safe heaven, the White House said on Wednesday.

President Obama called Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday evening (U.S. Eastern Time) and thanked him for the decision to "increase military, civilian and financial commitment to Afghanistan," said the White House in a statement.

In response to Obama's recent call for more troops from NATO and other allies, Prime Minister Rudd announced on Wednesday that Australia will boost its troops in Afghanistan by 450 to 1,550 soldiers.

"We must not allow Afghanistan to once again become the unimpeded training ground and operating base for global terrorist activity," Rudd told reporters.

"Enhanced commitments like Australia's are critical if we are to meet our shared goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaida and its extremist allies and preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven," said the statement.

The contribution "will help support the upcoming presidential election, accelerate and enhance the training of Afghan security forces, and bolster efforts to build and strengthen civilian institutions and advance opportunity for the Afghan people," said the statement.

Following 9/11 terror attacks, then Australian Prime Minster John Howard become one of the Bush administration's strongest international supporters by sending combat troops to participate the U.S.-led anti-terror war in Afghanistan.

Top U.S. commanders has said that the United States will have to keep about 60,000 troops, doubling the current number, in Afghanistan for at least the next three to four years to combat al- Qaida and Taliban militants, warning that 2009 will be a tough year.

Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Poland have agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan. (PNA/Xinhua) ALM/ebp

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