Australia foreign minister says nation is weary of war in Afghanistan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2012, 5:16am


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Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr yesterday acknowledged the nation's weariness with the Afghan conflict after five more troop deaths but warned of "enormous" damage to its image if it pulled out now.

Carr said an accelerated Australian withdrawal would also put other coalition nations under pressure to follow suit, jeopardising the chance to leave Afghanistan with a stable government.

"The choice here is whether we have a panicky dash, Australia rupturing an alliance that is the largest in history ... Australia making a dash for it that would do our reputation harm," Carr said.

"[It would send the message to] Turkey or Germany - you're now embarrassed, you've got to justify to your own electorates why you're sticking with this task but we Australians are out of it."

Australia lost five soldiers on Thursday in its deadliest day in Afghanistan and the worst day for combat casualties in its history since the Vietnam war, renewing questions about its involvement.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton praised Australia's resolve after Prime Minister Julia Gillard restated her government's commitment to Afghanistan despite the latest deaths.

Carr said: "everyone is weary of this war", but emphasised that Australia had to stay the course, adding: "the US would be very critical [if we] suddenly altered [our] character and said 'we're not with plan that's been put into place ... we're bolting'."