Payne says Afghan president not asking for more troops

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is in Australia on a state visit, discussing security with the minister and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


President Ghani has praised Australia’s assistance in his country’s long-running conflict with the Taliban.

Australia’s defence minister, Marise Payne, has met Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, in Canberra.

She showed him a device manufactured in Queensland used to counter improvised explosive devices.

More than 100,000 of them have been sent to Afghanistan for the local soldiers to use.

But Ms Payne says she has not received any request for more troops and any escalation of Australia’s involvement would probably depend on the actions of Australia’s allies.

“We have no current request for increased engagement, but, of course, that is always an ongoing discussion in the NATO context, other members of the operation, and we will participate in that when it comes to the appropriate time.”

While many of Australia’s combat troops have been withdrawn, the Defence Force says around 270 military people remain in Afghanistan.

Most are there to advise and assist local troops.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also met with the visiting president on his visit and says he has promised to maintain a presence until at least next year.

“I advised him that we have decided, and this was decided some time ago, to extend our … continue our military commitment for another year through to 2018. And he’s very appreciative of that. As you heard his remarks, he paid tribute to the 42 Australians that have paid the supreme sacrifice in Afghanistan.”

The war in Afghanistan is Australia’s longest.

Australian soldiers were deployed after the September 11 attack on the United States in 2001, sent to help a US-led coalition overthrow the ruling Taliban.

Ashraf Ghani paid his respects to those who have died, and he thanked Australia for its ongoing support.

“You’ve always assumed a burden of responsibility where you’ve not been directly threatened.”

Also visiting Canberra is Afghanistan’s first-ever female governor, Habiba Sarobi.

She says, after nearly four decades of conflict in her homeland, it may be some time yet before Afghanistan can be fully self-reliant.

“We have lost everything — infrastructure, human resources, from the civilian up to military — so it is a necessity that we have to get the support from the international community, especially Australia.”