POTATO HEAD ROXON
- Jun 7, 2005
- I got 30 for my UAI woo hoo.
Hmm looks like we're preparing a war against Iran soon, lol.AUSTRALIAN combat troops have begun withdrawing from Iraq, fulfilling an election promise by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to bring the soldiers home this year.
The soldiers from Overwatch Battle Group (West) 4 had been based at the Tallil air base, 300km south of Baghdad, and were responsible for providing security overwatch for Iraq security forces, as well as reconstruction and aid work.
A British military spokesman in the southern city of Basra said today the pullout from Talil base in Nassiriya was under way, but a spokesman for the governor of Dhi Qar province said it had been completed, with US forces replacing the Australians.
"The Australian battle group is pulling out," the British military spokesman said.
There was no comment tonight from the Australian Defence Department and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.
Australia, a staunch US ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war five years ago.
In addition to the combat troops, it also deployed aircraft and warships to the Gulf to protect Iraq's offshore oil platforms.
Since handing over security of Dhi Qar province to the Iraqis, the main role of the Australian battle group has been to train and support Iraqi forces.
Mr Rudd, who ousted John Howard's coalition government after 12 years at last November's election, had promised to bring home frontline troops this year.
It was a stark contrast to Mr Howard's commitment to the war. During his prime ministership, Mr Howard repeatedly said the troops should stay until the job was done, arguing Labor's plan to "cut and run" from Iraq would galvanise terrorists.
Polls show 80 per cent of Australians oppose the war.
Australia defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said in February that after the troops pulled out, Australia would leave behind two maritime surveillance aircraft and a warship helping patrol the oil platforms, as well as a small force of security and headquarters liaison troops.
The British military spokesman said Australian civilians training the police and advising the Iraqi government would also stay behind.
Preparations were made to pull out at the end of the troop's current six-month rotation in the middle of the year, and Britain and the US were informed.
Last week, British Defence Secretary Des Browne said Britain had planned accordingly for an Australian drawdown of troops.
"As it turns out, where they are working in Iraq is in an advanced stage of its own independence in terms of providing its own security," he said in a speech at the National Press Club in Canberra last week.
"Coincidentally, it was probably about time they were coming out of Tallil anyway so it works out in a way that suits all of us."
Britain still has about 4000 troops in southern Iraq.
He said then that Britain was grateful to the people of Australia and to the troops for their "magnificent" contribution to Iraq.
In April, US Ambassador to Australia Robert McCallum said Washington harboured no hard feelings over the Labor government's decision to pull Australian combat troops out of Iraq.
No Australian has died in combat in Iraq.