“Australia’s commitment to ADF operations in Afghanistan and the wider Middle East Area of Operation has been allocated $1.4 billion,” Fitzgibbon said in his budget address last week.
“Australia has strengthened its commitment to Afghanistan through a number of whole-of-Government initiatives, including additional training assistance to the Afghanistan National Army through additional ADF Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams and increased support during the Afghan elections.”
Fitzgibbon also welcomed the United States’ increased focus on Afghanistan, during what will be an important year for the war-torn country. By September 2009, the United States is expected to have approximately 62 000 troops in Afghanistan.
The ADF continues to adjust its basing of assets in the Middle East to optimise their support to current operations. A small number of ADF members, who remain embedded in coalition headquarters in Iraq, will withdraw by July 31 this year.
“$62.2 million has been allocated for operations in Iraq. Operation Kruger will provide a tailored security detail to protect the Australian Embassy in Iraq that will facilitate the movement and protection of its staff. The ADF’s contribution to Multinational Force efforts to develop a secure and stable environment in Iraq (Operation Catalyst) will cease on 31 July 2009” Fitzgibbon said.
He adds that two ongoing major overseas operations had also been funded in 2009-10, with $213.8 million being committed to East Timor and $29.6 million to the Solomon Islands.
“The Australian-led International Stabilisation Force in East Timor is made up of about 650 ADF personnel and will continue to provide a range of specified security tasks in support of the East Timorese authorities and the UN,” Fitzgibbon said.
“The ADF also provides around 110 military personnel to the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. Overall, Australia’s significant contribution to both these operations in our region should not be underestimated.”
Funding of $12.6 million has also been committed for Operation Resolute in 2009-10, the ADF’s contribution to the whole-of-Government focus on domestic maritime security activities. Around 400 ADF personnel are assigned to this operation to protect Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone from illegal fishing, smuggling and unauthorised arrivals.
“Government has made a significant budget commitment to Defence operations and will continue to work with our friends and allies in the international community to prevent terrorism and build security for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fitzgibbon said.
“We will also work hard with our neighbours to build stability in our region, in East Timor and the Solomon Islands, and to protect Australia’s borders and national interests.”