Ex-Oz armed forces chiefs for clarity on troop exit strategy from Afghanistan

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Melbourne, July 17 (ANI): As the Australian death toll in Afghanistan this week reached 17, former defence chiefs contacted by The Age said Australia lacked a clear strategic objective and exit strategy for its troops.

Some also say there is poor understanding of what could be achieved in Oruzgan province, where the Australians are based, once the Dutch withdraw next month.

Former army chief Peter Leahy said Parliament should debate and vote on overseas military commitments, including a reaffirmation of Afghanistan.

"I would also like to see a clear statement of national interest from the government," he said.

He added: "We don't want the army being caught between government policy and Australian public opinion. We need a discussion on the end game and we need to understand the shape of peace."

Six of the 17 Australian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan have been killed in the past five weeks.

Recent opinion polls show that support for the war has fallen from around 60 per cent to less than 50 per cent.

Prime Minister Gillard has stated that Australia's core mission is to train and mentor the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan so it can assume responsibility for the province, home to about 500,000 Afghans.

Jim Molan, who was Australia's highest-ranking officer in Iraq, said there was a need to clarify the future of Australian forces fighting in Oruzgan when the Dutch contingent withdrew.

Chris Barrie, a former admiral and chief of the Australian Defence Force, said there was a need to consider and debate exit strategies. (ANI)

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