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Visiting The Diggers And The Allies

  • December 23rd, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

rudd-iraq-2-dec-07.jpgThe Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon ended two-days visiting Iraq and Afghanistan (23.12.07), affirming that Australian missions to the two countries would continue under the new Labor government in Canberra.

They joined other political leaders from countries in the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, going there this week: President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

MEETING TROOPS IN IRAQ

The Prime Minister began the unannounced trip in Iraq where he met soldiers of Overwatch Battle Group (West) at Talil, Southern Iraq (picture, ADF), saying people were aware they’d be away from families at Christmas and he wanted to deliver a “thank you” before-hand.

Part of the gesture’s morale implications attached to the fact that 500 Australian troops are due to be pulled out of the Southern zone in mid-2008, though more than 1000 other Australian Defence personnel are to stay in the Iraqi theatre, and more Australians will be committed to a training program for Iraqi soldiers, outside Iraq.

STAYING WITH NATO OPERATION IN AFGHANISTAN

In Afghanistan Mr Rudd met Australian soldiers and told the Prime Minister, Hamid Karzai, Australia was there for the “long haul”.

“Over the next several months, I would also be encouraging other friends and partners and allies in NATO to continue their commitments to this country and, where possible, extend them,” he said.

He announced additional economic reconstruction aid of A$125-million, adding to A$450-million already pledged since 2001.

The chief Australian commitment in Afghanistan is to clear the way and defend reconstruction work based at the city of Tarin Kowt, capital of Oruzgan province.

Projects include the rebuilding of essential services like health care centres and schools, agricultural schemes, and help in maintaining government administration.

AUSTRALIA AND ALLIES

Australia has 900 troops in Afghanistan, part of the ISAF force (International Security Assistance), under NATO command (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

The presence in Afghanistan of the leaders of Italy and France this week drew attention to tensions within the alliance over troop levels and deployment, in the conflict with Taliban insurgents.

Both countries are among European NATO members that have been under pressure from Australia, the United States and other allies to send more forces and lift restrictions on their use in the field – such as whether to base them in more fiercely contested battlefield areas.

France has a deployment of 1300 troops, Italy 2100.

Reference:

DFAT, Afghanistan Country Brief, December 2007. http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/afghanistan/afghanistan_country_brief.html, (23.12.07).

Wikipedia, ISAF, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Security_Assistance_Force, (23.12.07).

ISAF (Home), NATO. http://www.nato.int/isaf/index.html, (23.12.07).

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