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Changes To Australia's Contribution To Iraq


Changes To Australia's Contribution To Iraq

The Government has decided to make a number of changes to the structure of the Australian Defence Force contribution to the stability and reconstruction of Iraq to meet ongoing strategic interests.

Defence Minister Robert Hill has today announced that the Iraqi Army Training Team commitment has been extended for a further six months, a small medical team will be deployed and a revised Air Traffic Control Team will be introduced.

The current Air Traffic Control detachment of about 60 personnel are scheduled to return to Australia in mid August following the transition of responsibility to Iraqi Civilian Controllers. Senator Hill said that although the overall number of personnel deployed on Operation Catalyst will remain about the same, change is now required to the structure of the ADF capability.

"The second Army Training Team will overlap with the current team for a period of around six weeks to allow for a transfer of expertise and to meet ongoing training needs. The original Training Team will then rotate back to Australia," Senator Hill said.

"An ADF medical team of up to 20 personnel will be deployed to support a major Coalition military hospital.

"The Australian medical team will most likely include a combination of regular and specialist reserve personnel."

A small group of about six Royal Australian Air Force air traffic controllers will be integrated into Coalition forces at Balad Air Base near Baghdad.

These Australian personnel will continue to coordinate the movements of military aircraft in the area following the successful handover of control to Iraqi air traffic controllers at Baghdad International Airport.

Senator Hill said the Air Traffic Controllers have performed a crucial role in keeping Baghdad International Airport open to civilian and military air traffic.

"The handover of responsibility to the Iraqi civilian authorities marks an important step in Iraq's transition and reconstruction," Senator Hill said.

"The detachment has done an outstanding job and their efforts have allowed a steady stream of humanitarian, military and civilian supplies and personnel to flow into Iraq. I commend them for their dedication and professionalism and I know that they are very well regarded by our Coalition partners.

"The detachment has handled approximately 175,000 movements, with an average of approximately 400 movements per day.

"Unlike Labor's countless policy positions on Iraq, the Howard Government remains committed to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure and in particular, protecting Australia's personnel and interests in Iraq and strengthening the capability of Iraqi security forces."

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