Australia: Troops to stay in Afghanistan

New PM reassures Obama that she will stay the course in Afghanistan.

Julia Gillard 311 AP (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Julia Gillard 311 AP
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
CANBERRA, Australia  — Australia's new prime minister said she used her first telephone conversation with President Barack Obama on Friday to assure him the country's military commitment to Afghanistan would not change under her leadership.
Some observers have speculated Prime Minister Julia Gillard may push for an early withdrawal of Australia's 1,550 troops from Afghanistan as the war loses popularity among Australians and elections loom.
RELATED:1st female PM for Australia as Rudd oustedAustralia plans Afghan pullout in 2 years"I assured President Obama that my approach to Afghanistan will continue the approach taken to date by the Australian government," Gillard told reporters on Friday, less than 24 hours after she was sworn in as the country's first female prime minister.
"I fully support the current deployment, and I indicated to President Obama that he should expect to see the Australian efforts in Afghanistan continuing," she added.
The White House said Obama "praised the special alliance between the United States and Australia, and the shared interests, values and bonds that underpin it" during their conversation.
Australia is the largest military contributor to the Afghanistan campaign of any country outside NATO, but has ruled out any further increases since it sent an additional 450 troops a year ago.