ADF troops digging in
- Friday 17 March 2006

Australia’s troop commitment to Iraq could extend well after the Japanese engineers they are guarding are withdrawn. The Prime Minister, John Howard, said during his visit to India, “We actually haven’t made a final decision, but I said a little while ago and [Minister for Defence] Dr Nelson has confirmed that it’s very likely that we will have a presence after May and as to how long it will be, I’m not going to put a time on it. It could well go into the next year.”

The Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, has recently visited Australian troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

While in Iraq he held a series of meetings with senior Coalition and Iraqi officials, including the Iraqi Defence Minister, Dr Sadoun, and the Commander of the Multi-National Forces - Iraq General Casey. Australia has about 1320 ADF personnel deployed in Iraq for Operation Catalyst.

Dr Nelson made a brief stopover in Afghanistan to visit Australian Defence Force personnel deployed on Operation Slipper.

He said, “The role of the current Special Forces Task Group (SFTG) is to conduct special missions in support of security and reconstruction efforts. … Approximately 200 highly trained troops work closely with Coalition forces and the Afghan National Army, operating in difficult conditions, against a fanatical adversary.”

The SFTG comprises elements from the Special Air Service Regiment, Commandos, Incident Response Regiment, logistic personnel and the lead elements of a 110 person aviation element of two Chinook helicopters which is due to arrive in Afghanistan soon and be operational by late March. Later this year, Australia will deploy a reconstruction task force as part of the Netherlands-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

CONTACT: The Office of the Minister for Defence: (02) 6277 7800
Department of Defence : 02 6265 3343
www.defence.gov.au