12 Feb

Australian PM says no exit date from Iraq

SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) –
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Sunday there was no exit date for his country’s troops in Iraq.
Australia was one of the first countries to commit forces to the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein, and still has about 1,370 forces in Iraq, including 450 troops guarding Japanese engineers in the southern Al Muthanna province.
“This idea of setting an exit date irrespective of the circumstances is wrong and we are not going to do that,” Howard told Australian television in an interview.
“That is a shortsighted policy which is not based on leaving behind a long-term secure situation in Iraq.”
Australia had previously hinted it may start scaling back its troops once Japan withdrew its roughly 550 non-combat forces which are involved in the rebuilding programme in Iraq.
Japan will begin withdrawing its forces in March and complete the pullout by May, Japanese media have reported.
Howard said he had not be told when Japan would pull out, but added whenever that occured it did not mean all Australian troops now guarding the Japanese would also be withdrawn.
“It should not be assumed that we would bring all of our forces home,” he said.
“It may well be that the best thing for us to do is to remain and do other tasks in relation both to training and also maintaining security, essentially in the southern part of Iraq.”
U.S. critics of President George W. Bush have demanded an exit strategy for the country’s 136,000 troops.
Bush, who has refused to set a timetable for any withdrawal, said in January that reducing troops was possible in 2006 but that it would be based on the situation on the ground and decisions by military commanders, not on politics.
In January, Britain said it would start withdrawing some of its 8,000 troops if local forces could keep the peace. Italy has 2,600 troops and is scheduled to withdraw 1,000 by June.
Australia has always said not would not pull out of Iraq until the job was done.
Howard said he believed the political and security situation in Iraq was progressing well following elections, but Australian troops would not leave the job to the United States or Britain.
“I don’t want to leave Australian troops in Iraq a day longer than is necessary, but I am not going to be part of a policy which leaves the job unfinished and leaves behind one or two other countries with the responsibility of completing the job, that is not the Australian way of doing things,” he said.
“It may not be a popular view and a lot of people will be critical of me, but that is the view that I have.”

Rhod says:

Australians seem to think of themselves as exposed on an Asian/Muslim front. New Zealanders don’t; they’re worse than Californians, but Australians see Muslim Indonesian and Malaysia and the neighborhood of the Indian Ocean as potential problems.
It’s no accident that the Bali explosions killed more Aussies than any other English-speaking group. This is their vacation backyard, They also have an Asian immigration problem, in the same way we have one stemming from Latin America. They have much to lose by the triumph of Islamism.

Wild Thing says:

Rhod oh wow I did not know that, thank you so much. That is realy interesting to me.