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Australia declared a long term committment to Afghanistan

Australia committed to remain as an part of an international military force in Afghanistan for as long as necessary, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in Kabul on Saturday. After Afghan President Karzai had criticised the killing of too many cilvilians during the NATO led anti-Taliban operations- Downer held talks with Karzai and defended the foreign forces.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer noted at a news conference in Kabul:
„There was quite a lot of discussion about civilian casualties,“ adding: „I was very happy with my conversation with President Karzai about this.
„It is very, very foolish for any person of goodwill to try to create some sort of moral equivalence between NATO and what the Taliban does.

„We will make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, against the Taliban, which is making every effort to cause civilian casualties.“

Further Downer described „The relationship with Afghanistan. .. for us is a strong one.“
„We very strongly support not just the military efforts made against the Taliban but (also) the efforts being made for reconstruction and development cooperation.“

Nearly 1,000 troops are currently serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan after doubling the contingent last month.
Most of the australian special forces operate in southern Uruzgan province, where a resurgent Taliban and soaring opium production have made security very fragile.

Almost 300 civilians have been killed in operations led by foreign forces this year alone, according to government officials, residents and aid groups.

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 Afghanistan is facing this year its bloodiest period.


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