John Howard reveals he feared SYDNEY would be attacked next after 9/11 – as he defends decision to send Australians to war in Afghanistan alongside the US
- Australia supported US war in Afghanistan, a conflict that killed 41 Australians
- Troops entered the country after the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001
- Former Prime Minister John Howard said he feared Sydney may be attacked
- He stood by decision to go to war in the name of liberty and political freedom
John Howard has defended his decision to send Australian troops to war inafter the September 11 attacks 20 years ago and said he feared Sydney may be targeted next.
The former prime minister was in Washingtonfor a meeting with President George Bush when two planes hijacked by terrorists flew into New York’s twin towers.
Three days later, Mr Howard invoked the ANZUS treaty – an alliance between the US, Australia andsigned in 1951 – and committed to support America.
John Howard has defended his decision to send Australian troops to war in Afghanistan 20 years ago after the September 11 attacks (pictured)
Allied troops entered Afghanistan in October 2001 to make sure the country did not offer safe harbour to more terrorists.
Over the next two decades 41 Australians and 2,372 Americans lost their lives in the country – and now the Taliban, an Islamist militant group, has regained power, causing critics to question the decision to go to war in the first place.
Mr Howard said it would have been ‘unthinkable’ not to join the US and revealed when the attack happened he feared Australia may be targeted next.
‘A lot of thought that morning was will the next attack be on London or Paris or Tokyo or even Sydney,’ he told ABC radio on Monday.
Former Prime Minister John Howard
‘All sorts of thoughts go through your mind.’
Mr Howard, who led Australia from 1996 to 2007, stood by his decision to send the country to war.
‘I never regretted the decision I made to invoke the ANZUS treaty and commit Australian forces to Afghanistan,’ he said.
‘And when you make a decision like that you don’t really have a full knowledge of how it is all going to work out. Life is never like that.’
Asked if in hindsight he should not have sent Australian troops, Mr Howard said it would have been ‘unthinkable’ not to support the US.
‘Given our relationship with the US and given our common commitment to a set of principles based on liberty and political freedom it was absolutely the right thing to do.
‘Based on the information I had the decision I took at the time was the right one.
‘It would have been, in the circumstances, unthinkable – given the nature of our relationship, the historic partnership between Australia and America – for us not to have joined the Americans in going into Afghanistan.’
Mr Howard said when the attack happened he feared Australia may be targeted next. Pictured: The Sydney Opera House
Discussing the possibility that Australia could have pulled out of Afghanistan after a few months rather than staying for 20 years, he said: ‘It just doesn’t work that way.
‘This was not occasion for Australia to be a 70 or 80 per cent ally, it was an occasion to be a 100 per cent ally.’
Australia joined the war in Afghanistan in November 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, the worst terror attack in history.
The Taliban was accused of allowing terror group Al-Qaeda, which carried out the attack, to flourish.
The US-led coalition swiftly deposed the Taliban government before year’s end, but western troops had stayed for 20 years since, dealing with lingering pockets of resistance and trying to train the local army.
At the peak of the war, Australia had 1,500 troops in Afghanistan and in total 39,000 Australian Defence Force personnel have been deployed on Operations SLIPPER and HIGHROAD.
Since the end of 2013, Australia has only maintained a small training force in Afghanistan rather than active combat troops.
In February the US said it would withdraw by May. The Taliban regained power in August as allied troops evacuated Kabul Airport.
Major Tim Glover, part of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment guarding Kabul Airport in August while the West evacuated troops and citizens from Afghanistan
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