Canberra, Aug 23 (IANS) Australia is open to sending more troops to Afghanistan if the Trump administration asks the country to boost its commitment to the conflict, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said on Wednesday.
Responding to Trump’s Monday announcement that the US would reorient the mission towards “killing terrorists” rather than nation building, Turnbull promised to “work through” any request for an increased troop commitment, ABC News reported.
“Australia is a substantial contributor to the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and is willing to consider sending more troops to bolster the US-led coalition forces,” Turnbull told reporters in the town of Tumut, 410 km from Sydney.
“The President (Donald Trump) has not set out precisely what additional US resources will be deployed. So we’ll be having close consultation with the US … the outcome of those consultations may result in additional resources being deployed to Afghanistan, but I don’t want to speculate on it,” Turnbull said.
The Prime Minister also praised Trump’s declaration the US would not allow terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State to regain a stronghold in Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, Australia agreed to send another 30 troops to training missions in Afghanistan, taking the country’s total troop deployment to 300.
The Opposition did not rule out backing a troop increase, but Labour leader Bill Shorten said on Tuesday he would not write a “blank cheque” to Trump.
Turnbull had been a staunch supporter of US foreign policy under Trump.
Earlier this month, he committed that Australia will be involved in any conflict in the event North Korea attacks the US, earning a sharp rebuke from North Korea that supporting Trump would be “suicidal”.
Asked on Wednesday about whether it was wise to be “joined at the hip” with the US, Turnbull said: “The US alliance is the bedrock of our national security, we are staunch allies, strong allies, none stauncher or stronger.”
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