WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2015 —
The long history of the U.S.-Australia alliance has been a linchpin of stability around the world, the Defense Department’s top policy official said here today.
Christine E. Wormuth, under secretary of defense for policy, discussed the importance of the U.S.-Australia alliance during remarks at the Brookings Institute.
“I think we share the view that the United States and Australia are cooperating on a range of challenges that are truly global,” she said, “whether it’s fighting Ebola in West Africa or whether it’s working together to bring security and stability to faraway places like Afghanistan.”
“Australia is a very important member of the now over 60-nation international coalition that is fighting against [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] and radical extremism,” Wormuth said.
Long History of Cooperation
“The United States and Australia have a very long history of standing shoulder-to-shoulder in every major conflict really since World War I,” Wormuth said. “Our security cooperation really continues to be a linchpin of stability around the world.”
That cooperation is important, she said, noting examples such as a recent hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia, and the terrorist attacks in Paris two weeks ago.
“Those are really stark reminders that violent extremism -- which is just one challenge that we’re facing together -- it’s a truly global, not just regional threat,” Wormuth said.
“It’s something that we’ll only be successful in defeating if we join the fight together,” she added.
Partners in an International Coalition
Wormuth said the U.S. is leading an international coalition to degrade, and ultimately, defeat ISIL terrorists using a campaign across multiple lines of effort -- not just military force.
“We’re not going to be able to defeat ISIL … solely through military means,” she said. The coalition must disrupt ISIL’s sources of revenue, stop the flow of foreign fighters, and work together to provide humanitarian support in Iraq and Syria in the wake of the terrorist group’s “chaos,” Wormuth said.
“And Australia is, again, a key coalition partner in that effort,” she said. “Australia and U.S. military personnel are working side-by-side in Iraq, and our two nations are also cooperating on other non-military aspects of the counter-ISIL campaign.”
Wormuth noted Australia has committed to send about 200 special operations forces to Iraq to help with the advise-and-assist mission, and around 400 Australian air force personnel associated with the air campaign.
Additionally, she said, Australia has also provided essential humanitarian airlift capability and has filled a key part of the effort to re-supply the Kurdish peshmerga.
“The fight against ISIL is obviously going to be a long-term effort,” Wormuth said. “This is not something that’s going to end in six months.”
“But I think the international coalition that we put together is strong; it’s diverse,” she said. “I was encouraged by my visit to Iraq to see that ISIL, I believe, is truly more and more in a defensive posture.”
Partnership in Afghanistan
“I think another terrific example of the cooperation that we have with Australia, in terms of global security challenges, is, of course, our shared engagement in Afghanistan,” Wormuth said.
“Australia has been playing a key role for years with the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan,” she said. “We’re just deeply grateful for the sacrifices that Australia has made to join us in working to bring stability to that region.”
Rotating U.S. Forces in Australia
A symbol of the close partnership with Australia, Wormuth said, is the deployment of U.S. Marines to Darwin.
“This year, about 1,150 Marines have come through Australia on a rotational basis,” she said, “and over the coming years, we are working with Australia to be able to rotationally deploy as many as 2,500 Marines on a yearly basis.”
“In addition to our Marine Corps deployments, we also have Air Force deployments in Australia,” Wormuth said.
“Between the two of those,” she said, “we think we’ll very much be able to maintain a very high level of interoperability with Australian defense forces and be able to enhance the joint ability that we have respond to crises, and again, to provide regional stability.”
Modernizing the Relationship
As strong as the relationship is, Wormuth said, the two nations need to press forward and continue to modernize it.
“One of the key things we need to do,” she said, “is continue to build on the hard-earned interoperability we’ve developed through what we’ve done together in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The two militaries have operated incredibly closely together, Wormuth said, picking up lessons learned and emerging from those two wars as a highly interoperable combat force.
Wormuth said she also thought it would be very important to continue to press forward in the areas of science and technology.
“Our cooperation there cuts across a number of rapidly evolving fields like electronic warfare, hypersonics and a variety of initiatives in the cyber domain,” she said.
Wormuth said as she thought about all that the two countries have done together and are doing now, she was struck by how closely and how well the alliance has worked.
“Because of that closeness,” she said, “I’m very confident that looking to the future we will be able to successfully adapt the alliance to whatever may be thrown at us.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)