Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2012-02-01

We have commitment to Middle East :Chief of the Australian Defence Forces

In an exclusive interview with Nation Shield, the Chief of the Australian Defence Force Gen. David Hurley says there is no question of Australian forces pulling out of Afghanistan. Excerpts from the wide-ranging interview:
 
By: Major Jasem Shaheen Albelooshi
Photo: Abdul Rahman bin Abbad
 
 
There are reports of Australian troops pulling out of Afghanistan. What is the current status? 
The reports of Australian troops pulling out of Afghanistan are misleading.  In fact, like the rest of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) countries, and in conjunction with the Government of Afghanistan, we are in the process of transitioning the responsibility for security from NATO ISAF to the Government of Afghanistan. So the countries involved in ISAF are reviewing the needs of the transition process.  From a strategic perspective, our Prime Minister has committed Australia to work with Afghanistan for the next decade.  So we will have commitments of the military for developmental support for at least this decade and into the next.  From a military perspective, we are operating in the Uruzgan province, working with the 4th brigade of the Afghanistan Army. Once the transition is complete we will know how the new force will look.  After transition, our role will be more of a supportive nature with institutional training, perhaps with Special Forces and with more assistance to the Government toward community and national development. So there is no question of Australian Forces pulling out of Afghanistan.
  
Is Australia on the threshold of playing a more important military role in the region, apart from South East Asia? 
Australia has been involved in the Middle East region in modern times since the first Gulf War in 1991. We have had a continuous commitment to this region since that time; in fact we have had our frigates here for 20 years on invitation, supporting maritime security in the region. At present we also have P-3 aircraft supporting maritime security. During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, we played a significant role in the Middle East.  The base here is where we bring our troops to move in and out of our other locations.  The Middle East is of significant interest to Australia and the development of this region is of mutual interest.  We are exploring other opportunities of mutual benefit with countries in the region including the UAE.
 
Australia and US have recently strengthened strategic ties. Is that to counter the increasing influence of China? 
In November, 2011, the US President Barack Obama came to Australia. During that visit he announced with our Prime Minister that we would increase the size and frequency of training interaction with the US ground forces, Navy and Air Force. The fact is that the United States is increasing Marine Corps training exercises with Australia. This is not anything new. What we are aiming over 4-6 years is to build on this relationship in a phased manner to develop a full force of around 2,500 personnel that is a full Marine air-ground task force. This is not unusual for us. 
 
Every two years we have increased the scale of training with the US troops.  Some 30,000 American troops and Marines come and train in Australia. The Air Forces of the US and Australia cooperate regularly and we are just increasing the frequency of this. The expanded US air presence in western Pacific region and South East Asia will undoubtedly increase the economic perspective of the region and lift productivity. We have an alliance with the US – the ANZUS alliance, which is 60 years old. The agreement can be termed as two nations teaming up for each other’s defence and security.  This is another step strengthening the ties with countries having mutual interest.  China has just as much interest as Australia or any other country in the Western Pacific in the security and economical stability of the region, particularly with shipping having freedom of navigation. We are supporting US presence into the region, but this ongoing development is not targeted against any country. This is more about the US-Australian relationship and our involvement in the region. 
 
Would Australia build a stronger blue water navy as domination of the seas will be key to any meaningful strategic role in the South East and South Asia? 
The freedom of navigation for trade, to move through the region through various straits in the Indonesian Archipelago to West Pacific is very important to all nations. Australia has always had a strong Navy because we are an island country. Our security strategy these days can be described as a maritime strategy. So we look for the ways we can work by ourselves and with our neighbours to provide security.  If you look at our 2009 Defence policy White Paper, then  it is very clear that having a maritime strategy looking out from Australia into the region and providing a maritime force capable of assisting in any crisis, is important to us.  We will have a mix of frigates, destroyers, submarines and air capability from the shores of Australia. 
 
In what way can the countries in the Middle East, particularly the UAE collaborate with Australia to ensure peace and security globally and in the region? 
Australia has particular interest in the region and it is very important for us economically and just being a good international citizen to help around the world when necessary. We have played a constructive role in the Middle East particularly with GCC countries to bring dialogue and to address some other issues. Doing all that, we feel, is the best way to bring stability. It is a long way from the Middle East to Australia, but our interests in the region are significant and we are committed to contributing to security in this region.  
 
How do you evaluate the cooperation between Australia and UAE in the military field? 
It is a solid relationship, we have been here for a number of years and as we have got to know each other, we are looking at ways to support and interact with each other.  We work together with Special Forces, Navy and Air Force on a planned basis and sometimes on an opportunity basis.  If we can help out in any way, particularly through any joint effort, then we are more than happy.  We are not a large Armed Force but we are a busy armed Armed Force, and there is a big distance between our two countries.  So there are logistic constraints to holding training exercises.   What we have is a strong relationship, a positive relationship, established on goodwill.
  
UAE plays vital role in humanitarian assistance globally. What is your opinion about these efforts? 
UAE should be very strongly commended for its vision, particularly the support it extends to humanitarian disasters. Sometimes it is difficult for countries like UAE and Australia to move with military or civilian forces on a large scale, but the UAE contributes much financially in addition to what military and civilian support it extends. The UAE donated generously in the aftermath of the Queensland floods. This shows the great generosity of spirit of UAE rulers and its people. 
  
UAE is one of the key players in the global exhibition industry, as the host of IDEX and Dubai Airshow. What do you think of these exhibitions?  
Unfortunately I have not been to IDEX or the Dubai Airshow. Our Navy provided a ship to NAVDEX and our Chief of Air force was here for the Dubai Airshow. As we consider these exhibitions  very important , we send our representatives and  ships They are not just about displaying military hardware but a great opportunity to meet the leadership, to meet our counterparts and discuss bilateral issues. Some years ago  I was the Chief of Capability Development in Australia and used to attend Farnborough and Paris Airshows.  Exhibitions like IDEX and Dubai Airshow are opportunities to know what people are thinking and see the latest technologies and to discuss issues with our counterparts. I hope to attend the next IDEX.  
 
Any special message to Nation Shield readers?  
The relationship with UAE is very important to Australia. My main purpose of this visit is to have the opportunity to visit the leadership, to call upon my counterparts and discuss issues of mutual interest. We have a strong relationship with UAE and look forward to having a lasting relationship with this distinguished country and its people.  
 

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