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Australian PM visits Afghanistan

Australian soldier in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, on 17 February 2007
Australia sent an extra 450 troops to Afghanistan in April

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made a surprise visit to Afghanistan to spend Remembrance Day with the troops.

Australia has about 1,500 soldiers - the largest contribution of any country outside Nato - in Afghanistan.

Details of Mr Rudd's whereabouts have not been released, but most Australian troops are in southern Uruzgan province training an Afghan army brigade.

Australia has lost 11 soldiers in Afghanistan, the most recent in July.

Mr Rudd sent an extra 450 troops to Afghanistan in April, and has repeatedly said Canberra must keep troops there until the threat of terrorism is halted.

But opinion polls have consistently shown the war is unpopular among many Australians.

Last month, Australia's Defence Minister John Faulkner said he did not wish to see his country's troops stay in Afghanistan a day longer than necessary.

Mr Rudd withdrew Australia's troops from Iraq last year, as promised during the 2007 election campaign that brought him to office.

After Wednesday's visit to Afghanistan, he is scheduled to fly to India to build stronger ties with the rising economic power.



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