As with Poland, Australia sent a number of special forces troops during the initial invasion of Iraq to help scout and take out some important target in advance. I heard that Australian soldiers fired some of the first shots in anger, one or two days prior to the official invasion began. Currently we have a number of soldiers (around 800) on the ground in Iraq training Iraqi soldiers, performing patrols, protecting convoys and guarding the “Green Zone”. The majority of them are deployed, along with 40 ALAVs (a variant of the LAV, I believe) in Al Muthanna in southern Iraq. Up until recently many had been deployed guarding the Japanese engineers (members of the JIRSG) but they’re going home, hence the redeployment scheduled to occur soon. The ALAVs are visible on the photo on at the right and seem to be pretty hand for patrolling the deserts and city roads, which probably not all that different from the desert terrain in the interior of our own country.
There is also an Australian ship (HMAS Ballarat, which replaced HMAS Paramatta) patrolling the Gulf and a number of air assets including C-130 Hercules, AP-C3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and F-18 attack jets. As well, have around 300 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan. Australia also provides some logistical support to the overall operation. Considering our remoteness, we have always needed to provide our own transport and logistics, and that seems to be coming in handy. As the saying goes, “Amateurs talk about strategy, dilettantes talk about tactics, and professionals talk about logistics” so I think this aspect of the support is important—we can’t have the USA and UK doing all the heavy lifting (pun intended).
Judging by the number of soldiers, considering that we are such a strong ally and have fought with the US in every major conflict since 1914, the size of Australia’s contribution seems a little disappointing. However I think when you consider all the various assets we have contributed, as well as our peacekeeping forces in East Timor, you will hopefully come to the conclusion that we are serious about helping out. In fact, if you add up the number of personnel involved in all the various air, sea and land activities, there are at least 1500 and possibly close to 2000 involved.
In addition to the interactions with the Japanese, our soldiers also work closely with many of the other countries in the coalition, but especially the US. In fact as I investigate the situation I am surprised by how integrated many of our people are with the overall command structure. Commodore Peter Lockwood is in line to take control of the maritime patrol activities in the northern section of the Gulf of Arabia* soon. And, there are 27 men who are involved in the Multi-National Force Headquarters. As an aside, isn’t Commodore a wonderful rank? If I were in the Navy, I’d rather be a Commodore than an Admiral, it just sounds so much better.
I am only aware of two casualties so far. In one case a soldier patrolling in Afghanistan stepped on a mine and lost some toes. More recently, Private Kovco died under suspicious circumstances. It was initially reported as an accidental discharge but more recently it has emerged that it might have been a suicide. I haven’t been following the story, but either way it’s an unfortunate development. However I think overall we’ve been lucky so far.
For vast numbers of great photos and videos of the Australian effort in Iraq you can go to the Operation Catalyst gallery, and for news and other information visit the News and Features page or the Defence Forces home.
* I like calling it the Gulf of Arabia mainly to annoy the Iranian regime as much as possible.
Below the fold: Denmark and El-Salvador.
Denmark has 550 troops in Iraq, including medical staff, and plan to stay as long as they are wanted there by the Iraqi government. That is a significant contribution for a country of only 5 million people, and they also have some troops as part of the ISAF in Afghanistan. In addition a number of Danes in Afghanistan are serving in logistical and support roles such as cargo handling and air-traffic control. Their other actions in backing us up make them seem like solid friends. In fact, the Danes were one of only five countries to contribute combat troops during the Invasion (Australia and Poland have already been featured at MO; the other two are the US and UK, whom I have not forgotten).
Considering that they are having some problems with radical Islam, it makes sense that they understand it is a problem that needs to be dealt with before it gets any more out of hand. The Prime Minister, Ander Rasmussen, certainly seems to share our values, and kudos to him for demanding an investigation into alleged crimes without discarding the presumption of innocence—unlike some people we know. Here in an excellent article by a Danish MP (Member of Parliament, not Military Police) explaining the reasons why they are in with us. It’s concise and to the point; I like them already:
And there is another fascinating document outlining their plan for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Note that education is the top priority. I can’t disagree with that.
This article suggests they are serious about doing something to help at home, too—in this case using their justice system to charge alleged Iraqi war criminals from the old regime. Denmark has also contributed significantly to the financial aspect of the Iraq and Afghanistan reconstructions. Their charity organizations are helping out too. Note to charity organizations and others who want to do something about poor people in war-torn countries, this is how you do it, find a way to actually help someone rather than just complaining and issuing press releases.
Their contingent is stationed near Basra and the British, Polish and other coalition forces. Four Danish soldiers have died in Iraq so far, three to enemy activity and one to a vehicle accident. I’ll join Mr. Bush in thanking them for their support and sacrifice.
The Danish government believe that NATO has a new role; an organization created to defend western Europe in the Cold War is perhaps better used as an international peacekeeping force. Well, it’s certainly not a new concept, Pres. Clinton thought this was a good idea, and I think we coalition members will be pleased to see NATO doing some of the stabilization work. If the UN won’t do it, somebody had better
It’s difficult to find information or pictures of El Salvadoran troops in Iraq. However, the few mentions I did find suggest that despite highly cynical explanations for why the troops are there at all, when they fight, they display great courage:
I am certainly grateful, especially considering El Salvador is neither particularly large nor rich. One reason they have given for their support is that they would like to help other countries through strife as they themselves have recently entered a period of relative stability after a particularly nasty civil war. However I’m sure there is a large element of political capital-making at work as well, given that such a large proportion of their population (something like one quarter) reside in the US and send money back home. I can’t help but think that situation is part of the reason for their economic dysfunction, but at least the fighting has not flared back up so far.
The counter-insurgency warfare their troops are trained in (and some have experience before) is exactly what the “doctor ordered” (or perhaps in this case the General). The similarities between the Iraqi war and their own civil war is not lost on them either. For a fairly dry and what seems to me even-handed explanation of the violence in El Salvador try this article over at GlobalSecurity. Many of the descriptions of the situation I’ve come across while researching it are quite hysterical, so I was glad to find one which doesn’t seem like a political diatribe disguised as a history lesson.
The El Salvadoran troops are not going to stay in Iraq much longer, they are starting to leave next week on June 30th 2006, but despite the now-expected threats of violence from Al-Qaeda they didn’t pull out when they were needed most. It seems as good a time as any for them to bow out. Two El Salvadorans have died in Iraq, one in a violent riot and the other in an accident.
I’ll finish with this quote from their Minister of Defence, Major General Otto Romero:
I find it refreshing that he is willing to admit that no, for them democracy is not perfect. It never is. But, there are a lot worse political systems to be living under. Was the violence in El Salvador worth it? Will they come out of their economic doldrums? Well, there is some hope, and I wish them the best of luck. They are certainly not alone in their struggle.
To be continued…
Update: Sgt. C. Flowers at CENTCOM Public Affairs wrote to Murdoc after noticing that I linked to the interview with the El Salvadoran Minister of Defense, and provided a link to an interview with Brigadier Gen. Soren Falk of Denmark discussing joint operations. Thanks for the article Sergeant!
I also fixed some spelling/grammar errors. It’s El Salvadoran, not El Salvadorean.
Update 2: I got Dutch and Danish mixed up, which I have done before. Don’t worry, I’m just an idiot. Fixed to reflect that Theo van Gough was in fact Dutch, not Danish.
—posted by Nicholas.