East Timor Troop Numbers To Be Cut

Australia is to reduce the number of troops in East Timor to 650 by early 2009. The announcement was made today by the Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon.

This is the text of a media statement from the Defence Department.


The Australian Defence Force will reduce its total force presence in East Timor to approximately 650 personnel by early next year.

The reduction in the total number of deployed personnel under Operation ASTUTE is appropriate given improvements in the security situation in East Timor.

The Minister for Defence, The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP said the Australian Government was encouraged by the growing ability of the East Timorese security agencies, with support from the United Nations, to deal with security.

“The East Timorese authorities have shown through their professional handling of the security situation that the time is now right for some drawdown of the Australian ISF presence,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

After the reduction in Australian troops, the International Stabilisation Force will total 790 Australian and New Zealand personnel.

Mr Fitzgibbon said that there is no change to the mission of the ISF and that Australian and New Zealand troops would continue to play a key role in East Timor’s security.

“The ISF will continue to provide security support to the Government of East Timor and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) in order to maintain a stable environment,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The Australian Government will also maintain the ability to rapidly reinforce the ISF at short notice if required, as was demonstrated earlier this year.

“Australia remains committed to supporting the Government of East Timor in developing its Defence Force and maintaining security and stability. The remaining ISF troops will continue to provide support to the UN and Timorese authorities,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Mr Fitzgibbon thanked the troops for all their hard work and sacrifice whilst serving in East Timor.

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