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Aussies flex muscles over Afghanistan

April 16, 2007 at 10:58 AM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, April 16 (UPI) -- Australian troops in Afghanistan will follow more vigorous, U.S.-style combat rules rather than those followed by the International Security Assistance Force.

The decision was reached recently in negotiations with a senior defense official of the Netherlands, a key player in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, which faces increasing attacks from resurgent Taliban guerrillas, according to the Sunday Australian.

New Australian troops would operate under the ISAF umbrella, but by following their own Rules of Engagement they would have more freedom to hunt and kill Taliban leaders and guerrillas in the country.

ISAF forces operate under more restrictive ROE and focus on promoting and protecting rebuilding and reconstruction efforts in the country. Separate forces sometimes operate under even more restrictive strictures, such as needing special permission from their home countries to leave their area of operation to come to the aid of another country's forces under attack in a different zone.

The situation has reportedly caused consternation among U.S. military commanders.

According to the report, Australia wanted additional troops it's deploying to southern Afghanistan, the hotbed of Taliban activity, to join U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom rather than ISAF.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the Australian Defense Force, says although the new troops would be part of ISAF, they would be "disrupting Taliban operations and going after Taliban leadership."

Commandos are among the new contingent of about 500 soldiers. They would be a "more robust group than the last time," Houston reportedly said.

Australia is a top supporter of the United States in the war on terror. It currently has about 500 soldiers in Afghanistan and plans to double the number.

© 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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