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Australia Extends Military Mission In Afghanistan By Six Months

Australian Special Forces taking part in a training exercise in Afghanistan (file photo).

Australia has extended its military mission in Afghanistan for an extra six months to mid-2017 with the prospect that it could be prolonged further.

Australia's caretaker government said in a statement on July 8 that Australia would also 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," the statement said.

The announcement comes two days after U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington would scale back plans to draw down troop numbers in Afghanistan, with 8,400 to remain there next year.

Australia, a U.S. ally, ended combat operations in Afghanistan in 2013. But 270 Australian troops remain in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on a training and assistance mission, which was due to conclude at the end of 2016. The troops will now stay at least until mid-2017.

The international contribution to Afghanistan is under discussion at the two-day NATO summit that opened in Warsaw on July 8.

Based on reporting by AP,