This is the text of the statement released by the Prime Minister, John Howard, announcing the deployment of Australian troops to the ground war in Afghanistan.
The Governments of Australia and the United States have consulted further about our commitment to support the international coalition against terrorism. Last night President Bush and I discussed these matters. After that discussion the Minister for Defence, Mr Reith, the Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Barrie, and the US Ambassador, Mr Thomas Schieffer, held further discussions on the details of Australia’s military contribution. Mr Reith and Admiral Barrie have briefed me this morning.
Australian forces will operate under Australian national command and in support of the coalition, and in operational taskings will be placed under the operational control of the appropriate coalition commander for agreed tasks.
I now wish to confirm that the Government has decided to make available to the coalition by deploying overseas the following military forces:
- Two P-3 long-range maritime aircraft to augment coalition maritime patrol and reconnaissance capabilities.
- Australian special forces detachment to deploy to selected locations as decided by Chief of the Defence Force, in conjunction with coalition force commanders, to conduct combined operations.
- Two B707 tanker aircraft to support air-to-air refuelling operations.
In addition we will continue to maintain the presence of one guided missile frigate to support the Multinational Interception Force implementing UN Security Council Resolutions. The HMAS Anzac will be replaced by HMAS Sydney. It is possible that, after consultation, the tasks assigned to HMAS Sydney may extend beyond the current interdiction duties.
In addition to these forces I would like to announce the additional commitment of:
- A naval task group comprising one amphibious command ship with organic helicopter capabilities, and a frigate as escort;
- Four FA18A aircraft to provide support for the air defence of coalition forces;
- One frigate, with embarked helicopter capability, to assist in the coalition’s naval protection of shipping effort.
The total number of deployed personnel will be about 1550 when all our forces are committed.
The locations and possible employment of these forces are being worked out between our military planners, and the details will not be made publicly available for operational security reasons. It can be said, however, that it is not expected that the FA18s will operate in Afghanistan.
It is expected that the majority of the deployments will be by mid-November. When particular units are to deploy we will make the appropriate announcements closer to the day. Furthermore, I anticipate that as circumstances permit I will be able, together with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley, to wish our forces farewell on behalf of the Australian people.
The Government will announce in due course details of the package of conditions of service for deployed personnel.
This deployment has been authorised by the National Security Committee. I have personally consulted the Leader of the Opposition and he has indicated his support.
These deployments, in addition to our current operations in East Timor and elsewhere, will add to the operation tempo of the Australian Defence Force but I am satisfied, on the advice of the Chief of the Defence Force, that the deployments are within the capability of the ADF without jeopardising the capabilities required for other tasks.