CANBERRA, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Australian forces in Afghanistan are facing a major challenge in Afghanistan as Dutch forces withdraw, Australian Associated Press reports Thursday.
The Dutch withdraw will take with them their hospital and other key support elements.
Australian Defence Minister John Faulkner said Thursday that the withdrawal of almost 2,000 Dutch troops from August would impact on operations in Oruzgan province.
Presenting the third ministerial update on Afghanistan, he said NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was working to identify a new senior partner for Oruzgan where most of Australia's 1,550 troops are based.
Faulkner said unless a new Dutch government decided otherwise, the drawdown would start in August. "During this decisive period in Afghanistan, Australia faces a particular challenge," he told parliament.
Since deploying into Oruzgan in 2006, Australian troops have operated under overall Dutch control, relying on Dutch transport and attack helicopters, jet bombers, heavy artillery, hospital and much more.
In October, the Netherlands government voted not to extend its mission in Afghanistan. The government collapsed following a disagreement between coalition partners over Afghanistan with no election anticipated for some months.