Japan mulls ASDF shift to Afghanistan

Kyodo News

The Self-Defense Forces would provide rear-area support for the NATO-led antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan under a new law being planned to replace the current counterterrorism law that will expire Nov. 1, government sources have said.

In light of the opposition camp’s resistance to extending the existing law, lawmakers are preparing new legislation to continue and apparently expand upon the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s NATO-linked refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

The expanded law envisages sending the Air Self-Defense Force to airlift supplies, such as humanitarian relief goods, to Kabul as logistic support for the International Security Assistance Force operating in Afghanistan under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the sources said.

The measure is apparently an attempt to compromise with the Democratic Party of Japan, which took control of the House of Councilors with other opposition parties in the July 29 election.

DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa is opposed to way the MSDF’s activities are being justified but has shown support for the ISAF operation, which is based on a U.N. resolution.

Set up under a U.N. Security Council resolution in December 2001, the ISAF provides security and reconstruction support in Afghanistan with about 39,000 troops from 37 countries taking part as of July 2007.

But the government still has the option of submitting a bill to the Diet to either extend the existing law or enact a new one focused on the MSDF’s activities. These actions could be expected if the DPJ maintains its hardline stance against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration and attempts to topple it or initiate a snap election in the House of Representatives.

The government and the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc will make a final decision after determining the DPJ’s true stance on the issue, the sources said. The issue will likely top the agenda of an extraordinary Diet session that is set to open on Monday.

Under the proposed plan, the ASDF’s C-130 transport planes, which are operating out of Kuwait, might be diverted, ending the ASDF’s airlift support in Iraq.