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Australia Ends Combat Role in Iraq

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Australia Ends Combat Role in Iraq

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Australian military officials lowered their nation’s flag at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq, marking the end of Australia’s combat operations there. The flag was lowered after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that 550 combat troops would be leaving Iraq, following through on his election pledge to send troops home by mid-2008. Australia was one of the first countries to commit troops to Iraq in 2003.

While in Iraq, the Overwatch Battle Group, along with the Australian army’s training team, stationed at Camp Terendak in Tallil, were responsible for training some 33,000 Iraqi soldiers for combat—a job Mr. Rudd says is now complete.

Mr. Rudd accused former Prime Minister John Howard of misleading the nation on the Iraq war, claiming Mr. Howard abused intelligence information to justify the war. Mr. Rudd said there had been a “failure to disclose to the Australian people the qualified nature of the intelligence—for example, the pre-war warning that an attack on Iraq would increase the terrorist threat, not decrease it” (The Telegraph).

Mr. Howard continues to deny that he deliberately misled the Australian public, and maintains that it was the right thing to do. “I firmly believe it was the right thing to have done,” he said, while admitting that it was the hardest decision he made as prime minister (BBC).

Mr. Rudd went through the explanations his predecessor used to join the U.S.-led invasion, saying that every argument for invading Iraq proved to be wrong.

“Have further terrorist attacks been prevented? No, they have not been, as the victims of the Madrid train bombing will attest,” Mr. Rudd told parliament. “Has any evidence of a link between weapons of mass destruction and the former Iraqi regime and terrorists been found? No. Have the actions of rogue states like Iran been moderated? No...Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain a fundamental challenge. After five years, has the humanitarian crisis in Iraq been removed? No it has not” (The Telegraph).

The new Prime Minister also dismissed Mr. Howard’s arguments that Australia was obligated to send troops because of the nation’s alliance with the United States.

Some 800 military personnel will continue to stay in or around Iraq, along with 100 diplomatic security personnel, crews aboard warships in the Persian Gulf, and a small presence of the Royal Australian Air Force.

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