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TIME TO WRAP UP AND REVIEW AUSTRALIA’S MILITARY COMMITMENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

14 October 2020

Independent Senator Rex Patrick today renewed his call for Australia to wrap up its military commitments in the Middle East and refocus more on our region. He also called for an independent review to assess the effectiveness of nearly two decades of military operations costing many billions of dollars. 

“A year has passed since I first called on the Federal Government to wrap up Australia’s military commitments in the Middle East,” Senator Patrick said. “At that time the Government indicated they would continue deployments without identifying any end point. However, yesterday’s little noticed announcement from Defence Minister Linda Reynolds that the Australian Defence Force has ceased its military training activities in Afghanistan is a significant development.”

“Australia’s remaining forces in the Middle East – 150 troops in Afghanistan, 110 in Iraq and some 600 personnel elsewhere – no longer serve a vital strategic purpose," Senator Patrick said. “The contribution these deployments make to Australia’s national security no longer justifies their continuation.” 

“Given the current state of flux in American policy including President Donald Trump’s unilateral announcement he wants all US forces withdrawn from Afghanistan by Christmas, bringing an end to Australia’s remaining deployments in the Middle East is clearly overdue.”

“After nearly two decades of operations in the Middle East, our special forces especially need time to rebuild and reorientate themselves towards possible future operations in Australia’s immediate strategic region.” 

"We are entering a new era of competition between major powers focused on East Asia and the Pacific. In these circumstances, Australia may face significant strategic challenges closer to home. The development of maritime and air capabilities for the defence of Australia and the projection of military power in Australia's immediate region are already key priorities."

“Australia’s remaining commitments in the Middle East should be wrapped up without delay, with the one exception of Australia’s contribution to allied maritime security operations in the Middle East, which remains strategically important to Australia's economic and trade interests.”

Senator Patrick also said it would also be appropriate for the Defence Minister to commission an independent and comprehensive review of Australia’s military commitments in the Middle East.

“Such a report should cover the objectives of successive governments, the outcomes achieved, the costs involved, operational performance, the functioning of command and control arrangements, relations with alliance partners and lessons learned.”

“A comprehensive report should be tabled in the Australian Parliament and reviewed by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affair, Defence and Trade, and the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee.”

“After many years of conflict, 47 deaths and hundreds of wounded, and billions of dollars of expenditure, a comprehensive review is clearly required.”