Time to wind down Australia's military commitments in the Middle East

16 October 2019

In a speech to the Senate last night, Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick called for Australia to wind down its military commitments in the Middle East and refocus more on our region.

"Given the current state of flux in American policy and the erratic character in decision-making in Washington, there is an urgent need for Australia to look closely at current Middle East deployments and ask some very searching questions about the risks involved and our long-term strategic interests."

Senator Patrick called on the Government to recognise changing strategic circumstances and direct Australian Defence Force efforts accordingly.

"We are unquestionably entering a new era of competition between major powers focused on East Asia and the Pacific. In these circumstances, Australia may face significant strategic challenges closer to home. The development of maritime and air capabilities for the defence of Australia and the projection of military power in Australia's immediate region are already key priorities. A rapid wind-down of Australia's Iraq and Afghanistan deployments and the associated support operations would allow the reallocation of financial and other resources to help build up naval and air capabilities much more relevant to the defence of Australia and our immediate strategic interests in the Pacific and East Asia regions."

Senator Patrick has called on the Government to recognise a change in where the national interest lies.

"As the Foreign Minister has said of the United States, countries are able to make decisions in their own national interest. Well, that applies to Australia as well. We need to focus firmly on Australia's primary strategic interests, the defence of Australia and supporting peace and security in our immediate region. That's where our national interest now lies."

Similar calls for a withdrawal of Australian forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, and for a reorientation of Australia's defence efforts, have been made by former Chief of the Army, Peter Leahy, and prominent strategic analyst, Professor Paul Dibb.

Senator Patrick's full speech can be found here.

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