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Provincial Iraqi Control – Al Muthanna

Thursday, 13 July 2006 105/2006

Provincial Iraqi Control – Al Muthanna

I welcome the announcement today of the transfer of security responsibility in Al Muthanna to the Iraqi Government. The transfer of security in Al Muthanna is a critically important milestone towards the Iraqi Government taking control of its own security across Iraq.

Transfer to Provincial Iraqi Control means that the Iraqi Security Forces will assume responsibility for providing security in the province, with the Coalition only providing support if requested by the Iraqi Government.

This demonstrates the progress made in providing stability and developing the Iraqi Security Forces in Al Muthanna. As well as representing a further step towards Iraqi democracy, Al Muthanna’s move to full provincial security control is a tribute to Australia’s efforts.

As part of their role in Al Muthanna, Australian forces provided training to the 2nd Brigade of the Iraqi Army’s 10th Division, who are now taking a key role in providing security. I am proud of the role Australia has played in training and preparing the Iraqi Army over the past year.

The ADF provided a secure environment for Japanese troops to conduct a range of important projects to improve infrastructure, including: training and technical support for four hospitals; 16 community water purification and supply projects; 18 projects building roads and bridges; and improvements to health clinics, schools, and sporting, community and welfare facilities.

In addition, a small ADF team has managed an Australian Civil Military Cooperation Program which has employed local people to undertake work that will benefit their own communities. 19 projects have been completed, including renovation of a grain silo, abattoir, media centre (to support radio, television and print media) and provision of water kits, a veterinary centre and equipment, ambulance station and mobile health clinic supporting a doctor, dentist and optometrist to remote areas.

All of this helps to bring hope and confidence to Iraqis.

After the Japanese departure, the Government will redeploy our 470 soldiers from Al Muthanna to the Tallil airbase in Dhi Qar Province. ADF personnel will continue training Iraqi Security Forces at the Basic Training Centre in Tallil. They will also provide support to Iraqi Security Forces in a crisis if requested by the Iraqi Government and the Multi-National Force - Iraq. The involvement of Australian forces in any crisis situation will be subject to Australian Government approval.

The Australian Government remains fully committed to contributing to security and stability in Iraq and we look forward to continuing to work together in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq and in helping to provide security to the Iraqi people. The worst thing Australian and Coalition forces could do now is pull out of Iraq.

ENDS

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