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Australia to Send More Troops to Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2005 – Noting that Iraq is at "a tilting point," Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced plans to send more troops to Iraq.

The Australian government announced Feb. 22 that it will send a 450-member task group to the southern Iraqi province of Muthanna to provide security for Japanese engineers and to train Iraqi security forces in the province.

The deployment, scheduled for April, will increase Australia's presence in Iraq, known as Operation Catalyst, from about 920 to 1,370 troops.

Howard told reporters in Canberra the added troops were being sent at the request of Japan and Great Britain.

The announcement follows Australia's Feb. 15 announcement that it was deploying a contingent of logistics specialists to Iraq to train elements of the Iraqi Army in logistics operations and resource management.

Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill said the increased troop presence will help "maintain the momentum toward freedom" in Iraq, particularly during the critical period following the Jan. 30 elections.

"The ultimate goal," he said, "is free Iraq and an Iraq that can be a constructive contributor to the Middle East region and the world."

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