Australia to review troop levels in Iraq by 2007
Earlier this week, the Iraqi government announced that Australian and British forces would soon hand over security responsibilities in the province to Iraqi forces.india Updated: Jun 21, 2006 08:29 IST
Australia will review its troop deployment to Iraq by the end of this year, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said on Wednesday.
Australia -- a staunch US ally -- has around 1,320 troops in Iraq and the Middle East, including 460 troops guarding Japanese reconstruction efforts in Iraq's southern Muthana province.
Earlier this week, the Iraqi government announced that Australian and British forces would soon hand over security responsibilities in the province to Iraqi forces. Japan has also announced its withdrawal from the region.
Australia's 460 troops in Muthana province will be transferred to an air base in Tallil, about 100 kilometres southeast of their current posting in Samawah, when Japan withdraws, Nelson said.
The troops will provide training and "back up" for Iraqi security forces as necessary, the minister said.
He said Australia would evaluate the success of the Iraqi forces in protecting Muthana province before reassessing its military presence in Iraq.
"I can assure you that the next six months in al-Muthana is going to be extremely important for our future involvement in Iraq," Nelson told a private television network.
"If we can see that the provisional Iraqi government in al-Muthana can successfully manage its own affairs and its own security then I would expect that by the end of this year we would be starting to think about our future deployment.