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Australian troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014

 
 
 
 
 
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An Australian soldier patrolling an area in Afghanistan.

The Australian ambassador to Afghanistan says his government has offered to keep hundreds of troops in war-ravaged Afghanistan even after the 2014 deadline for the pullout of foreign forces.

Jon Philp told reporters in Kabul on Wednesday that Canberra had made an offer to the Afghan government to keep between 100-400 troops in Afghanistan into “2015 and onwards.”

Australia currently has around 1,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, most of them based in Uruzgan Province. At least 40 Australian soldiers have been killed since the 2001 US-led invasion of the country.

The remarks come a week after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott used a surprise visit to Afghanistan to declare the end of his country’s involvement in the Afghan war. He attended a ceremony marking the end of Australia’s involvement in the war.

“Sweet because hundreds of soldiers will be home for Christmas. Bitter because not all Australian families have had their sons, fathers and partners return,” Abbott said at the main base of Tarin Kot on October 29, adding, “Australia’s longest war is ending, not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that’s better for our presence here.”

Meanwhile, Washington has promised to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014. However, it has been locked in tricky negotiations with Kabul over a strategic partnership beyond 2014.

Afghan political groups have warned that things will get worse should the US set up permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

Afghan prominent figures have also heaped scorn on US-led forces for committing unforgivable crimes against Afghan women and children since invading the country in 2001.

Thousands of Afghan civilians, including a large number of women and children, have been killed during night raids by foreign forces and CIA-run assassination drone strikes.

The increasing number of casualties in Afghanistan has caused widespread anger against the US and other NATO member states, undermining public support for the Afghan war.

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