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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


06/04/2003Departmental 60403/03

Defence Media Briefing - Sunday 6 April 2003

Brigadier Mike Hannan, Russell Offices, Canberra


BRIGADIER MIKE HANNAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the daily update on ADF operations in the Middle East. And welcome back to Defence headquarters in Canberra.

There've been no significant issues or changes to our operations overnight, and I'm pleased again to report that all of our personnel are safe and well. I would like, before starting, to make a small clarification on a question on the location of forces in the push into Baghdad.

Yesterday we were asked whether there were any Australians involved, and the answer was no in relation to units. But we do have one warrant officer, who is serving with the United States' marine unit involved in the advance to Baghdad with the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Now the warrant officer is one of a number of Australian Defence Force personnel serving with United States and British units in the Gulf region on various exchange postings.

Other exchange personnel are will various ground force units in southern Iraq, serving in air units, and obviously with coalition ships in the Gulf.

Turning now to maritime operations: our clearance divers and landing craft remain at work at the port of Umm Kasr, and the clearance operations there remain ongoing. Our ships Kanimbla, Darwin, and ANZAC continue their operations further down the Gulf, escorting ships and resupplying.

In land operations, all elements of the special task group continue their task of surveillance. The SAS remains on its operations inside Iraq, and of course the commandos from the Fourth Battalion continue to provide a ready reaction force for them, and the logistics elements, including the CH-47 helicopters, continue with support tasks.

Turning to air operations, our FA-18s have continued close air support missions overnight in support of the advancing coalition forces. It's worthy of note that only one sortie engaged a military target yesterday, the remainder of the sorties returning without finding suitable targets.

That concludes today's brief. I'll now be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Mark Phillips from News Limited. Just the warrant officer who's with that First Expeditionary Force. What particular skills or role, do you know, has he got there, or what is his involvement? He's actually just involved with - basically with the foot soldiers, or is he lending other skills?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Oh, look, I'm not sure of his precise skills. I think he's currently employed as a junior commander - or a tactical commander. And I know that he's a commander of a light armoured vehicle, but in what specific role I'm not sure. But he's in there filling a task within that combat unit.

QUESTION: Josh Gordon, from The Age. I'm just wondering to what extent Australia's helped out to secure the airport? The - in Baghdad?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: We haven't had an involvement in that operation.
QUESTION: Brigadier, Misha Schubert from The Australian newspaper. Can you tell us to what extent, or to what role, Australian forces will play moving into Baghdad over the next couple of days or weeks?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Well, as you know, our FA-18s are continuing to provide close air support to the forces involved in the - in the battle south of Baghdad, and that will continue. The main role for our ground forces will be the - the provision of intelligence information from their role of observation. And of course our maritime component involved down in the Gulf a long way from Baghdad, are not likely to have any impact there.

QUESTION: Do you have any information on whether the humanitarian aid is to be unloaded now - Kuwait - and whether it's actually entering into Iraq at this stage?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: These are the two..
QUESTION: This is from the ships - wheat.
BRIGADIER HANNAN: ..Australian wheat ships?
BRIGADIER HANNAN: Yeah. The latest I've heard on that is that they are standing off - one of them is standing off Kuwait, waiting for berth space. The location of the other I'm not sure. There's obviously a lot of congestion at the docks there. But I think that you might be able to get some better - more update information from AusAID, who are looking after this worthy project.

QUESTION: Just one final one. Has the Australian Defence Force been sounded out at this stage about any role in post-war Iraq? There's been some reporting today about who'll be heading it up for the US, and how that'll be run out of Defence in the US. I'm just wondering if there's been any sort of early sounding out of the Australians?

BRIGADIER HANNAN: Yeah. Well, the Australian role in the - in the post-war Iraq - Australia's military role in post-war Iraq is certainly a matter for Government, and at this stage no decisions have been made in that regard. There's obviously a considerable debate and discussion to take place to determine what roles - both military and other - would be appropriate for Australia, and the ADF of course as always stands by to meet the Government's requirements.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Any further questions?

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