U.S., Australia Remain Close Allies in Terror War
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 18, 2005 Australia remains committed to "military operations that are part of the democratization process in both Afghanistan and Iraq," the country's prime minister said in the Pentagon today.
"No two countries could be closer in terms of our common values and attitudes towards the challenges that the world faces at the present time," Prime Minister John Howard said during a joint press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Australia has been a steadfast ally in the war on terror. The country has nearly 1,400 troops in Iraq, and Australian troops were with U.S. and British troops during the initial assault on Baghdad in 2003. Australian forces also moved in with U.S. special operations forces against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Australia announced July 13 that it would send an 150 more special operations troops to Afghanistan in preparation for scheduled Sept. 18 elections there. Howard today said today the Special Air Service troops are looking forward to working closely with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
He also had positive comments on Iraq. "Although the insurgency remains challenging, progress is being made," he said.
The prime minister said it's important to keep in mind that Iraqis "defied the intimidation" and turned out in record numbers to vote in January elections. "It is inevitable that on every way station towards the full democratization process in Iraq, there is going to be a spike in the level of insurgency," Howard said.
Howard and Rumsfeld both spoke of the long history between the two countries and of the London terrorist bombings that killed 54 people earlier this month.
"For generations, U.S. and Australian troops have stood together to defend freedom and to combat the designs of terrorists and tyrants," Rumsfeld said. "Once again, our two countries are standing together to help Afghans and Iraqis build democracies in countries that not too long ago were sanctuaries for terrorists. We understand well the threat violent extremism poses to the civilized world, a danger tragically demonstrated by mass murders committed in London earlier this month."
Howard noted that the one Australian killed in the London bombings was of Vietnamese descent from an immigrant family. He said it's especially tragic that the men who are believed to have triggered the bombings "included children of immigrants to another country." At least two of the suspected bombers were British citizens of Pakistani descent, according to media reports.
"It's poignant and tragic that somebody who had embraced the opportunities of a new country should die and the hands of somebody who has contaminated and despoiled the values of the country that gave his family a home and an opportunity," the prime minister said.
Howard said the attacks are a reminder that the war on terrorism "is a struggle between people who despise values that are common to all of the American and Australian people, irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds."
Rumsfeld added that civilized people trying to make peace with terrorists "will find that it's very dangerous."
"It's a little like feeding an alligator, hoping it eats you last," he said.