CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia on Friday extended its military mission in Afghanistan by six months to mid-2017 and potentially longer as the troubled nation battles a resurgent Taliban.
Australia also pledged to continue its $100 million a year commitment to the Afghan National Army and National Police until 2020.
“It is vital to continue to build the capacity of the Afghan security forces to defend the Afghan people against the Taliban and other terrorist groups,” Australia’s caretaker government said in a statement.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday the United States would scale back plans to draw down troop numbers, with 8,400 to remain in Afghanistan next year.
Australia ended combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2013. But 270 troops remain on a training and assistance mission, which was due to conclude at the end of 2016. They will now stay at least until mid-2017.
Australia’s troops are based in the capital Kabul, where they support the Afghan National Army Officer Academy.
The international contribution to Afghanistan is under discussion at a NATO summit this weekend in Poland.
Defense Minister Marise Payne will not travel to Warsaw because vote counting is continuing in Australia’s July 2 elections. Australia will be represented by Ambassador to NATO Mark Higgie and Defense Force Chief Mark Binskin.
The caretaker government extended Australia’s Afghanistan commitment with the approval of the opposition party.