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Australia Considering Troops For Afghanistan

U.S. troops in Afghanistan (file photo) 7 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Prime Minister John Howard says the Australian government will consider increasing Australia's troop strength in Afghanistan.

Australia is reported to currently have only one soldier in Afghanistan.

Howard said today on a radio program that the cabinet will next week consider a request from Afghanistan's government to send more troops.

Earlier this week, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah urged Australia to send troops to help stem increasing incidents of militant-linked violence.

Afghanistan's ambassador to Australia, Mahmoud Saikal, has also asked Australia to send more troops to help bolster security ahead of Afghanistan's 18 September parliamentary elections.

Australia sent 150 special forces soldiers to Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led offensive that ousted the Taliban regime and their Al-Qaeda allies in late 2001. However, Australia is said to have only one soldier in the country now, helping in mine-clearing operations.