Afghan withdrawal could risk nuclear-armed Pak falling under terrorist control: Howard

Sydney, Oct 26 (ANI): Withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in the present scenario would risk nuclear-armed Pakistan falling under "greater terrorist influence or control", former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has warned.

Howard, under whose premiership Australian troops were first deployed to Afghanistan in 2001, and also subsequently withdrawn in 2003, made these comments amid an ongoing federal parliamentary debate about Australia's role in the war, reported.

Speaking to a news channel, Howard emphasised that now was not the right time to bring the troops home. Currently, Australia has 1550 troops in Afghanistan, after the government moved to redeploy the nation's military resources since 2005.

"I just ask those people who are talking about bringing the troops home, can they contemplate for a moment the impact on the stability of Pakistan if the West is seen to have been defeated in Afghanistan?" he said.

"Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state and if Pakistan through any combination of circumstances were to fall under greater terrorist influence or control, just think for a moment," he stressed, adding, "And I ask people who criticise our presence in Afghanistan to think for a moment of the consequences of that."

Howard, who was recently the target for a pair of shoes thrown by a man protesting the Iraq invasion, again defended the decision to invade the country, although he remained at a loss over discrepancies between intelligence reports and the facts regarding the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"Of course the intelligence turned out to be wrong but at the time we had reason to believe that it was credible," Howard said.

"And it still remains a mystery to me how there should be such a gap between that intelligence and the reality on the ground," he added. (ANI)

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