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The Australian government announced Tuesday that it would double its troop levels in Afghanistan this year, increasing the contingent to around 1,000 troops.

At least 300 of the additional Australian troops would be special forces likely to deploy to the country early this summer.

“Their role will be to enhance provincial security by disrupting Taliban command and control supply routes and they’ll directly support the Australian reconstruction task force,” Australian Prime Minister John Howard said at a news conference. “It is difficult. It’s dangerous work and that should not in any way be underestimated, but there is a lot at stake.”

Howard also said that Australian forces face the “distinct possibility of casualties.”

Australian commandos had last been in the country last year, Howard said.

Military officials expect this spring and summer to see a surge in Taliban attacks. Fierce clashes have already broken out in the southern part of the country as resurgent militias mount attacks on Afghan and international troops.

“Afghanistan faces a crucial phase as international and Afghan national security forces work to consolidate the gains made since the overthrow of the Taliban regime,” Howard said.

The International Security Assistance Force, led by NATO, is currently under the command of U.S. Army Gen. Dan K. McNeil.


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