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ODF Battalion to Somalia



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

ALEXANDER DOWNER MEMBER FOR MAYO SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

ODF Battalion to Somalia

The Coalition supports the deployment of a Regular Army infantry battalion to Somalia to operate with international forces in Operation Restore Hope.

The Government's announcement today follows several Coalition calls for a larger Australian contribution to be made to relief operations in Somalia.

"The First Battalion from the Operational Deployment Force (ODF) will be making an important contribution to bringing peace to Somalia", said the Shadow Defence Minister, Alexander Downer.

"I note that the deployment will be for a period of 17 weeks beginning in January 1993.

"While the Coalition strongly supports the deployment a number of important operational issues need to clarified. First, what exactly will be the role of the Battalion particularly as this relates to the need to disarm the Somali warring factions.

"Second, what command and control arrangements will apply in the light of the fact that the Battalion will (appropriately) be under the operational control of the Coalition Force commander?

"Parliament will need to be kept fully informed about these matters.

"A third concern relates to Australian security requirements. The Operational Deployment Force will clearly be significantly under strength for the time 1 Battalion ODF is in Somalia.

"This will reduce the Defence Forces' capacity to respond to regional crises should any arise.

"Although the Coalition strongly supports this deployment on humanitarian grounds, the use of our premier battalion highlights the combat limitations of an Army with only four Regular Infantry battalions. —

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"This problem was anticipated in the Coalition's October defence policy statement, A Strong Australia, which said:

Cutting the Regular battalions from 6 Brigade leaves only four Regular battalions in the Army. This is not enough for the wide range of tasks which Army has to perform. It would be very difficult for Australia to send a Regular infantry battalion overseas for peacekeeping duties. Six battalions offered a limited degree of flexibility. Four means that Army would be stretched in committing forces from the very beginning of an

operation. With four battalions it would be practically impossible to maintain two military commitments at the one time. Six battalions (along with ten General Reserve battalions) is the minimum necessary to maintain a thin line of vital asset protection across the North during a low-level

contingency.

(ends) 15 December 1992 (72)

More Information: Peter Jennings (06) 277 4145