Australia Follows U.S. in Withdrawing Troops From Afghanistan

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Australia will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan in September, following a similar announcement by key ally the U.S. that will end both nations’ longest wars.

“The conflict has exacted an enormous toll on the Afghan people and the complex task of making peace lies ahead,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an emailed statement on Thursday. He encouraged the Afghan government to continue peace negotiations with the Taliban.

President Joe Biden announced his decision Wednesday to fully withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, declaring it was “time to end America’s longest war.”

Australia, which had as many as 1,500 personnel serving at a time in Afghanistan, began reducing its military presence from the war-torn nation about two years ago, and now has 80 soldiers there. Morrison noted that more than 39,000 Australians had been deployed to Afghanistan since the war began two decades ago, and 41 soldiers had lost their lives.

Australian special forces soldiers serving in Afghanistan were allegedly involved in 39 unlawful killings of prisoners, farmers and other civilians, a government-commissioned report found in November. Following a four-year inquiry, the report found there was credible information that 25 personnel may have been complicit and 36 matters should be referred to police for criminal investigation.

China, which is in the midst of worsening ties with Australia, has been critical of the nation’s role in Afghanistan. In November, a diplomat in Beijing tweeted an image purporting to show an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child -- Morrison demanded an apology for the “repugnant” tweet, which hasn’t been forthcoming.

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