The Australian Prime Minister announced last night that he plans to double the number of Australian troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2008. Australia currently has 550 troops in Afghanistan and expects the number to increase to approximately 1,000. The majority of the new troop deployments will be made up of Special Forces. They will be sent to the Uruzgan province where they will provide security for Australian reconstruction efforts and disrupt Taliban operations in the area.
The increased Australian deployment will be well received by the Bush administration and NATO commanders who have been calling for increased commitments from coalition partners. It is also a reflection of Howard’s desire to put his money where his mouth is. He had been critical of countries not contributing enough to the war on terror and therefore felt the need to show Australia’s commitment. Although the increase from 550 to 1,000 may not match the numerical commitments of Germany, Italy and France (who have contributed 2700, 1800 and 975 troops respectively), the significant characteristic of the Australian troops is that they are deployed in the dangerous regions of the country. The German, Italian and French governments have largely refused to put their troops in harm’s way except in emergency situations.
It is noteworthy that most of the heavy-lifting in Afghanistan is being undertaken by Anglosphere nations - the USA, Great Britain, Australia and, of course, Stephen Harper's Canada - which lost six men over the weekend. Canada has lost fifty members of its armed services in Afghanistan.
The importance of the Anglosphere - which (exceptionally) sided with Israel during last summer's conflict with Hezbollah - will be a recurring theme of BritainAndAmerica.com.