Australia ends combat ops in Iraq, pulls out troops
Australia, a staunch US ally and one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war five years ago, has ended combat operations in Iraq, the Department of Defense said.
The soldiers lowered the Australian flag that had flown over Camp Terendak in the southern Iraqi city of Talil yesterday, marking an end to their service there.
The combat troops were expected to return to Australia over the next few weeks.
The move fulfills a campaign promise of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was swept into office in November largely on the promise that he would bring home the country's 550 combat troops by the middle of 2008.
Rudd has said the Iraq deployment has made Australia more of a target for terrorism.
Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon declared the mission a success which had allowed Iraq's own security forces to successfully take control.
"Our soldiers have worked tirelessly to ensure that local people in southern Iraq have the best possible chance to move on from their suffering under Saddam's regime and, as a government we are extremely proud of their service," Fitzgibbon said in a statement yesterday.
"The Australian contribution to the Iraqi army's Counter Insurgency Academy is one of the lasting legacies of our commitment," he said.
Australian troops contributed to the training of 33,000 Iraqi army soldiers following the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein. They also helped train the Iraqis in logistics management, combat service support and importantly, effective counterinsurgency operations.