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Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Page: 122

Mr McClelland asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 29 March 2007:

(1)   Is he aware of comments made by United States (US) Defense Secretary, Mr Robert Gates, on 11 January 2007 on the US troop surge that “It’s viewed as a temporary surge, but I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be”?

(2)   Has the Government received any indication of how long the troop surge may last?

(3)   What contingency plans have been made in the event that the troop surge is unsuccessful?

Mr Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   On 5 April 2007, at a Department of Defense Special Briefing, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said “I have said all along that I believe that decisions on duration and everything else will depend on the situation on the ground.”

(3)   The Australian Government fully supports the new US strategy in Iraq, including the planned troop surge, as the best hope for the Iraqi people. The Multinational Force in Iraq Commanding General, General David Petraeus, has said that it will not be until mid-June or so before all the additional forces will be in place. General Petraeus has also said that he and US Ambassador Crocker would provide in September an assessment of the situation in Iraq with respect to the US mission and offer recommendations on the way ahead.