Australian government commits more troops to Iraq

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Australian prime minister John Howard has admitted this week's decision to commit an additional 450 troops to Iraq is a policy backflip.

During the 2004 election campaign Mr Howard indicated that there would be no major increase in the number of Australian troops in Iraq. However yesteday's announcement is set to more than double the number of Australian troops on the ground in Iraq.

Mr Howard justified the reversal of policy as being in the "broader interests of democracy in the Middle East". He also explained that the decision came in response to requests from British and Japanese leaders.

The commitment of extra troops comes as a result of the Dutch government's decision to withdraw 1400 soldiers from Iraq, in response to political pressure in Holland.

The Australians will be deployed to the Iraqi province of Al Muthanna to provide military support for Japanese engineers working on reconstruction projects.