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Defense Minister urges Australians to support war in Afghanistan

06-22-2010 14:33 BJT

CANBERRA, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Australian Defense Minister John Faulkner on Tuesday urged Australians to keep supporting the war in Afghanistan, despite the deaths of five Australian soldiers within two weeks.

Senator Faulkner was due to give a statement to the Parliament on Australia's commitment to Afghanistan, as Dutch forces prepare to end their lead role in Uruzgan province later this year.

But the announcement will not be a step backwards from the present military and civilian contribution, Senator Faulkner said.

Public support for the war has wavered in recent months coinciding with the death of five Australian soldiers in less than a fortnight.

There were also concerns the exit of Dutch troops from Afghanistan next year will leave the Australian contingent more exposed in Oruzgan province.

Senator Faulkner said he has been hoping to make an announcement about a replacement strategy "very soon".

"Of course, it is critically important when the Dutch relinquish leadership in Oruzgan province that the contribution the Dutch make is replaced."

Senator Faulkner said he was concerned a rising death toll was eroding public support for the war.

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