Australian troops in Afghanistan not at risk by U.S. withdrawal: official

08:52, June 23, 2011      

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CANBERRA, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan will not be affected adversely by any reduction in U.S. troop numbers on the ground, Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith said on Wednesday.

The Obama administration has earlier promised to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan after an 18-month troop surge, and Obama is expected to order U.S. troop drawdown from Afghanistan on Thursday.

Smith said he does not believe Australian troops or their military objectives were at risk after the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"We're not expecting that any drawdown will see any adverse implications for us in Oruzgan Province," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"There is nothing inconsistent with a drawdown and our ambition for transition by 2014 to ... an Afghan-led security responsibility."

Smith said coalition force numbers had been boosted considerably during the 18-month surge and the United States was in a strong position to shift its focus.

"It is open to the United States to change the allocation of its resources without adversely impacting on the ground that's been made," he said.

Australia currently has 1,550 personnel operating in Afghanistan, and they are mainly based in Oruzgan province of Afghanistan. So far the casualties stands at 27 since 2001.

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