Last Australian troops withdrawn from Iraq
MORE than eight years after Australian special forces infiltrated the deserts of western Iraq at the start of what was to prove a brutal, bitter and divisive conflict, the very last diggers have withdrawn.
- From: AAP
- August 10, 2011 12:00AM
That occurred on August 6 with the departure of 17 Aussie troops responsible for providing security at the Australian embassy in Baghdad.
The only reason this did not pass entirely without notice was that Defence Minister Stephen Smith mentioned it at a media conference called to outline proposed reforms to the defence organisation.
"I do think it is an important point to make for the record," Mr Smith said.
He said it was no secret that Labor had opposed Australian involvement in Iraq, campaigning on that issue in the 2007 election campaign and then overseeing withdrawal of the last Australian combat troops from the country's south in mid-2008.
But he said it had been important for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to continue providing security for Australian diplomats.
From 150 soldiers equipped with ASLAV armoured vehicles, the size of the force, known as SECDET (security detachment, has progressively been reduced in line with the improving security situation.
The final group of 17 troops, equipped with armoured Land Cruisers, have now handed over to contracted civilian security guards and headed home.
Mr Smith said that was essentially the norm for security of other embassies in Baghdad.
"I have made it crystal clear on any number of occasions that I have seen our involvement and the international community's involvement in Iraq as a distraction from Afghanistan," he said.