Rudd has announced that the Australian Defence Force’s Overwatch Battle Group and the Australian Army Training Team Iraq have formally ceased their operations in Iraq.
He has said that combat troops will be returning home before the end of the month. Many people have been pleased with this announcement but when you take a closer look it seems that this is not a withdrawal at all.
More than 500,000 Iraqis have been killed since the US led invasion five years ago. Close to one in five Iraqis have been displaced and become refugees. Electricity and water is accessible only in Baghdad and only for a few hours a day.
It is estimated that overall the war in Iraq has cost more than $3171 billion. Australia’s involvement alone has cost $2.3 billion. At the same time the Labor Party are telling ordinary people to tighten their belts!
All these factors have contributed to the majority of Australians opposing the war and calling for Australian troops to be brought back from Iraq. Kevin Rudd won the federal election in November with a pledge to do just this and in June he announced his plans in more detail.
In a speech to Parliament Rudd actually made it clear that “this withdrawal does not signal an end to the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) mission” in Iraq. He pointed out that the Royal Australian Navy “will continue maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf”.
He also said that the air force will support the Multi National Force Iraq (MNFI) through “vital transport, sustainment and maritime patrol tasks” and that the army will “protect Australian diplomats, other civilian staff and senior visitors to Baghdad”. The ADF “will maintain headquarters, logistics and embedded support elements”.
This is, as Rudd described, a “reconfiguration” of forces and not a withdrawal as some of the press has described it. Labor is withdrawing just over 500 of the 1,450 Australian Defence Force personnel currently in Iraq.
This reconfiguration is merely another cosmetic measure taken by Labor so that they can at least, be seen, to be adhering to their election promises. Just like when they said ‘sorry’ to Aboriginal people and signed the Kyoto protocol this has cost the government nothing.
Rudd just like Howard is a staunch supporter of the US/Australia Alliance and he recently visited US President Bush to tell him just that. Rudd told Bush that Australia would continue to be a solid ally and he put his hand up to take over from Howard as ‘the deputy sheriff in the region’. While reconfiguring things in Iraq, Rudd has pledged more support for Bush’s adventure in Afghanistan.
Labor has made the deployment of over 1,000 Australian troops to Afghanistan. There is also a real possibility that the 500-strong Australian combat unit being withdrawn from southern Iraq will be re-deployed to Afghanistan before the end of the year.
The situation in Afghanistan is getting more dangerous by the day. So far five Australian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and this figure is likely to rise as they are required to engage in more combat activity. The Taliban are also now using many of the same tactics that have been hard to counter in Iraq, including deadly roadside bombs and suicide bombers.
Rudd just like Howard, Bush and even Obama has no real strategy to end the bloodshed in Afghanistan or Iraq. The idea of installing a puppet regime and creating proxy security forces to take over from the occupying forces has only made the situation in both countries worse. In Iraq this ‘strategy’ has laid the basis for a sectarian civil war.
The instability and insecurity that exists in Iraq and Afghanistan is caused by the occupying forces and the exploitation of capitalism. It is only the Iraqi people themselves who can bring the internal conflict to an end. The only real solution is for the immediate withdrawal of all troops and not just a ‘reconfiguration’.