Wednesday, December 05, 2007

2008 Could Be Casualty Heavy Year For Australian Troops In Afghanistan

How would prime minister Kevin Rudd deal with a somewhat steady flow of killed and injured Australian troops coming home from Afghanistan? Would he pull out Australian troops if local opposition filled the streets of our cities? Would he send in more troops to show the Taliban they cannot win?

Rudd is already preparing to withdraw all 500 or so of our combat troops now stationed in Iraq by mid-2008. But he may increase the number of Australian troops in Afghanistan, where our soldiers are now being specifically targeted and killed by the Taliban.

Experts fear that Afghanistan will become only more bloody next year, and with the Taliban moving in on Afghanistan's cities, and seemingly gaining strength by the month, the risk of greatly increased military casualties will surely rise as troops engage an enemy growing in number and confidence.

From NPR :

Michael Fullilove, head of the Global Studies Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, says that Afghanistan is likely to be the big issue for Australian forces over the next year.

"We haven't tested public opinion as to how Australians would react to larger numbers of casualties than we've suffered to date," Fullilove says.

That test could come sooner than the new prime minister may want, White says. The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, and some allies are wavering on their commitment there, he says. White says that Rudd has mentioned sending in more troops to replace departing ally troops.

"Once he looks at what's actually happening on the ground there, in what has, I think, in Afghanistan, been a very grim year, he'll need to think very carefully whether it's sensible to send young Australians on dangerous missions where the chances of success are so low," White says.

The Afghanistan War has not divided Australia in the same way that the Iraq War did. But with three Australian troops killed in only a matter of weeks, and more than a dozen seriously wounded in 2007 alone, the vague disinterest many Australians have towards what is going on in Afghanistan may soon become organised opposition.

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