18 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Australia will send 150 elite troops to Afghanistan before elections there next month to help prevent militants from disrupting the poll.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made the announcement today at a joint news conference in Canberra with visiting Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.
The troops will be deployed in Afghanistan for 12 months.
Downer also said Australia was considering contributing troops to a provincial reconstruction team around March or April next year.
Australia sent troops to support the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in late 2001, but only one Australian soldier involved in mine-clearance remains.
Abdullah today officially opened the new Afghan Embassy
in Canberra. He is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister John Howard as well as Australia's defense and immigration ministers later today.
(AP)For more on the Afghan elections, see RFE/RL and Radio Free Afghanistan's dedicated "Afghanistan Votes 2004-05" webpage.