Keating Meets With Australian Leaders to Enhance Military Partnership
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 21, 2007 The commander of U.S. Pacific Command wrapped up two days of meetings here today with Australian government and military leaders to explore ways to enhance their already rock-solid partnership in promoting stability in the region and beyond.
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, right, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, renders a salute after inspecting a formation of Australian troops on his arrival at the Australian Defense Force headquarters in Canberra, Australia, Sept. 21, 2007. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Australia’s defense chief, looks on. Defense Dept. photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating met yesterday in Sydney with Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Australia’s defense chief, and his delegation for a full day of sessions during the annual bilateral military representatives conference. Today, he met with Defense Minister Brendan Nelson before traveling here to the capital city for sessions with Houston and Australian military chiefs at the Australian Defense Force headquarters.
Keating said the visit, his first to Australia since taking command of PACOM in March, showed him the U.S.-Australian relationship is even stronger than he had realized.
“Every war we fought for the last century, the Australians have been with us, and we have been with them,” he said. “And we have more in common today than I realized before our visit. … They are members of the coalition of the committed, not just the coalition of the willing.”
Houston called the two days of meetings highly successful in cementing the U.S.-Australian military relationship and laying out a framework for enhanced cooperation in the future.
“We in Australia view the American presence in our part of the world as a very important feature of the strategic setting,” Houston said. “We think the American presence here in East Asia and Southeast Asia contributes substantially to the stability of the region, and I think it’s a vital part of the security landscape here in our part of the world.”
Much of the talks centered on advancing the initiatives President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced in Sydney earlier this month following their Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, explained Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Bairett, Pacific Command’s country director for Australia and New Zealand.
Bush and Howard reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Australian alliance and announced plans to expand cooperation in four key areas: humanitarian and disaster relief; joint combined training; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and military exchange programs.
They also signed a new U.S.-Australian Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty that will streamline the sharing of defense goods, services and information between the two countries and improve their ability to operate together. The treaty requires U.S. Senate approval, and the two countries have agreed to develop implementing arrangements for it within six months.
Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Lorraine, chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy here, said Keating’s meetings here reinforced groundwork already laid, and reaffirmations made at the APEC Summit.
“The focus was on our militaries operating together and sharing information to make each other more effective,” he said. “There was a general agreement that we need to share more and be even closer than we are now,” in promoting regional stability.
Key areas of focus were on expanding maritime security, counterterrorism and peacekeeping operations.
Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat program already provides protection against criminal activity in the economic exclusion zones of many Pacific Islands nations. Australia is heavily involved in training regional countries – predominantly the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia -- to participate in maritime security operations.
Houston called this program critical in light of active terrorist groups who conduct operations close to his country’s shores, as well as those in the region seeking to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.
He noted that North Korea is working toward a nuclear capability, and other regional counties are trying to acquire a nuclear capability. “There is clearly a need to do everything we can to prevent proliferation of those weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
Meanwhile, Australia also has become a regional leader in peacekeeping operations, with 1,100 Australians in the International Stabilization Force in Timor-Leste and about 140 in the Solomon Islands as part of the Regional Assistance Mission for the Solomon Islands.
The day before arriving here, Keating visited the ISF headquarters in Dili, Timor-Leste, where Australian and New Zealand troops have been deployed since May 2006 to quell violence and strengthen local security efforts.
Australian Brigadier John Hutcheson, the joint task force commander, told Keating its mission is to “maintain a secure, stable environment for the East Timorese to get on peacefully and resolve their differences.”
In addition to deploying peacekeepers, the Australians are sharing their peacekeeping expertise throughout the region through training and peacekeeping exercises.
This effort dovetails with the U.S. Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative, Bairett said. The State Department program, executed in the theater by PACOM, has a goal of expanding to 15,000 the number of trained peacekeepers in the region by the decade’s end.
Already strong military cooperation between the United States and Australia increased dramatically after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Australia’s prime minister, who was in the United States the day of the attacks, invoked the Australia-New Zealand-U.S. Treaty’s mutual defense provisions and deployed Australian troops to fight alongside U.S. forces in the early combat phases in Afghanistan, and later, Iraq.
Australia has doubled the size of its force in Afghanistan since January, and now has about 1,000 troops supporting the NATO International Security Assistance Force there. The vast majority of Australian troops are serving with the Netherlands-led provincial reconstruction team in Oruzgan province.
Australia also has committed to maintaining its 1,500-troop presence in Iraq through June 2008.
As it conducts operational missions in the Pacific and beyond, Australia is focusing on increasing its 52,000-member military by about 10 percent over the next decade. It’s also working to make it more expeditionary and more interoperable with U.S. forces.
Biennial Talisman Sabre exercises between the U.S. and Australia train their forces to plan and conduct combined task force operations, Bairett said. Talisman Sabre 2007, conducted in June and July, was the largest since the exercises began in 2001.
Houston called the last exercise “wonderfully successful,” noting that it went off “almost seamlessly,” despite the fact that both countries are heavily engaged in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Today’s high-level meetings reaffirmed the close relationship between the United States and Australia that paves the way for better future cooperation across the board, he said.
“We have a very reliable, very loyal and very dedicated ally (in the United States) who is prepared to work tirelessly to ensure we achieve outcomes which are to the mutual benefit of both our nations,” Houston said.
He praised the new Pacific Command chief as the man to help carry this effort forward.
“In Admiral Keating, we have a partner … who I think we can work with to sort out any issues that confront the two countries that we might be challenged by in the Pacific Command (area of responsibility) in the days, the months and the years ahead,” Houston said.