The shadow defence minister, Richard Marles, has signalled Labor would be open to increasing defence force numbers in if needed, as conditions on the ground deteriorate.
He says al-Qaida is increasing its presence in Afghanistan, Islamic State is playing a role, the country is experiencing an insurgency, and “we can’t afford to see Afghanistan lost”.
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Marles said Labor had asked for a briefing from the government regarding last week’s request from US Pentagon officials for the to commit more troops to the troubled country.
The US request followed as part of a possible allied surge in Afghanistan, reported.
“The starting point here is that Afghanistan matters,” Marles told Sky News on Sunday. “A number of the Bali bombers received training in Afghanistan leading up to the Bali bombing in 2002, so we’ve got a direct interest in that country in ensuring that it is denied terrorist activities in the future.
“We can’t afford to see Afghanistan lost and it is important that we focus on that.”
In April, as many as a dozen militants stormed the largest army base in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 140 soldiers, many of them unarmed, in what was
Earlier this month, for additional personnel to help deal with a resurgent Taliban and the continuing threat from Islamic State fighters.
Marles said on Sunday Labor hoped to be briefed by the Turnbull government this week on last week’s request from Pentagon officials.
He said Labor would look at that request “very carefully” and act “in a really constructive way here with the government”.
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“As I indicated in my Press Club speech [last] week, bipartisanship is where we ought to be aiming in terms of questions of this kind,” he said.
He said Australia would make the best contribution by providing personnel who could train local forces, rather than supplying extra combat troops.
“I think the lesson from the Iraq invasion in 2003 is that we really need to be building the capacity of these countries themselves to deal with the challenges that they face,” he said.
“We’re doing a lot of training in Afghanistan, specifically in terms of officer training. It’s really well received, we are making a difference there, and I think that’s partly why there is a request specifically in relation to Australia because of the really positive impact we’re having.”