Afghanistan to welcome more Aussie troops: Karzai

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Sydney, Oct 16: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has said he would welcome an increased troop commitment from Australia.

''We would want more Australian assistance...Now, that assistance can take various fronts,'' he told ABC television.

''If Australia can send us more troops, in order to stabilise the country further, in order to conduct a more vigorous campaign against terrorism, that would be welcome.'' Australia currently has just under 1,000 troops in southern Afghanistan, comprising the reconstruction task force and special operations task group, both operating in Oruzgan province.

Mr Karzai said Afghanistan needed more international troops to man the borders and prevent insurgents entering the country, and also train and equip local security forces.

He said he did not want to put a timeframe on how long foreign troops would be needed.

The Labour party said it would be ''attentive to any requests'' for more troops, but would make the judgement based on Australia's defence resources at the time.

The coalition forces says it plans to maintain the current troop presence but has refused to commit to any additional personnel in the near term.

The Afghan army was now 45,000 strong, but the government was aiming for 70,000 troops, and for it to be properly equipped with weapons, planes and other equipment, President Karzai said.

''If I tell you now that we'll be ready in five years' time, I may prove wrong,'' he said.

''What I can say is that let's make all-out effort to train Afghan institutions and to get it done as soon as possible, perhaps within a time span of five to 10 years,'' he said.

The struggle against terrorism was complicated in part because the Taliban and al-Qaeda were receiving funding from various sources, including to some extent from the cultivation of the opium poppy in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai said.

He said Afghanistan and Pakistan had to work together to stop terrorists crossing the border from Waziristan in Pakistan.

Pakistan had a very professional army that was capable of a lot, but the fight against extremism was not a military fight alone, he pointed out.

UNI

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