Today the first of all Australian combat soldiers in Iraq arrived home! Fulfilling an election promise, the Rudd Government will be withdrawing all troops except a small contingency to be utilised for diplomatic protection.
Overwatch Battle Group (OBG-W) and Australian Army Training Team (AATT-I) formally ceased operations in Camp Terendak, Talil (300km south of Baghdad). These divisions were primarily involved in training Iraqi soldiers and now their job is done..
Australian involvement has apparently given the fledgling Iraqi Army the space and time to train, grow and "consolidate into a capable force that has proven itself time and again in recent months." We are no longer needed. Defence Force chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said this afternoon that the time was right for Australian personnel to come home. "The Iraqis are doing the business," he said.
However1000 Australian soldiers will remain deployed in Afghanistan. And rightly so to my mind.
This is good news. Many troops came out of Iraq much earlier however, during the Howard Government's tenure in power - but you watch, Kev will get all the credit:
According to a press release Press Release 42/03 on 17th April 2003 from the then Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon. Robert Hill including:
- 600 personnel on Royal Australian Navy frigates HMAS Anzac and Darwin.
- 250 airmen and women and support crews deployed with a squadron of 14 F/A-18 RAAF Hornet fighter aircraft.
- A SAS squadron and some of the Combat Service Support Group that provides logistic support necessary for the Special Forces Task Group.
- A Navy clearance dive team
And in June 2003,
- 350 sailors and soldiers embarked on HMAS Kanimbla with a Sea King helicopter, Army landing craft and Army air defence detachment and a specialist explosives ordnance team.
The Howard Government did send another 500 trooops in May 2005 as requested by the British and Japanese to assist with construction and humanitarian work. But now, apart from providing some diplomatic security and consultancy . . our part in this stupid, senseless and falsely justified invasion is over.
Poor John Howard . . lucky Kevin Rudd . . to the victor goes the credit!