Aus troops Iraq b’grounder

The Australian Defence Force is taking stock after the first Australian casualties in IRAQ.

In the first direct attack on Australian forces, a car bomb damaged a convoy of three light armoured vehicles, about 350 metres from the Australian embassy in Baghdad.

Three soldiers received injuries in the blast, while three Iraqis were killed and 16 others were wounded.

There is no doubt that AUSTRALIA has been fortunate, with nearly 70 British soldiers killed in IRAQ, and more than 1,000 UNITED STATES troops.

According to the executive director of the Australian Defence Association, (mr) NEIL JAMES, there are a range of factors why AUSTRALIA has not suffered any losses so far in IRAQ.

2610s192 JAMES 26 secs

The first is obviously the professionalism of the contingent. They’re very well trained, very well led, very well prepared, very well supported. Secondly, there’s a bit of a luck factor, and the luck factor at some stage may run out, so we have to steel ourselves for that. Lastly it’s a continuously evolving situation over there and obviously the threat goes up and down at various times. But you’d have to say it’s rising at the moment.

At any particular time, about a third of 900 Australian military personnel in and around IRAQ are actually on duty in IRAQ, most providing protection to the Australian embassy and its staff.

But a military analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, (mr) ALDO BORGU, says it’s NOT fair to say AUSTRALIA’s casualties have been low only because of its relatively small force.

2610s193 BORGU 27 secs

In some respects it’s an unfair comparison because we’ve just got around 200 guys in Iraq, so it’s quite easy for us to actually make sure they’re well equipped and well protected. The US has got around 130,000 and so obviously the fact is no matter how well protected some of them are. Can you guarantee that they are all going to have that degree of protection? Probably not. So in many respects it’s a combination of good luck, good planning on our part, but our job is a hell of a lot easier than the Americans’ is.

Since the federal election, it has been revealed that AUSTRALIA has refused a United Nations request to send troops to IRAQ as peacekeepers.

The Prime Minister, (mr) JOHN HOWARD, said this was because the government had already promised it would NOT substantially increase AUSTRALIA’s military commitment in IRAQ.

Mr BORGU believes the Australian Defence Force could be doing more in IRAQ, but the government is concerned about possible casualties.

2610s194 BORGU 20 secs

The simple fact is that there is a lot more we can be doing in Iraq. We do have the troops to do it. I think a lot of it has to do with, in one sense, the government feeling as though it has already met its obligations to the US in terms of what we’ve done so far, but also recognition that the more troops they put over there the more likely they are to get casualties and I think that’s one thing that this government is certainly concerned about not having.