Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Defence: Parliament House, Canberra: General Peter Cosgrove's comments about need for Iraq timeline and foreign troops being a focal point of terrorist motivation.



Download PDFDownload PDF

ROBERT McCLELLAND MP Shadow Minister for Defence

8 August 2005

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: General Peter Cosgrove’s comments about need for Iraq timeline and foreign troops being a focal point of terrorist motivation

McCLELLAND: General Peter Cosgrove is talking commonsense when he is saying that Australia should be planning for a withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Indeed, he is saying that the presence of Western troops in Iraq is itself a motivating factor for activity by insurgents and this is clearly something the government has to start talking about. That is - setting out details of our mission in Iraq and when that mission is going to be completed.

JOURNALIST: The mission is to restore Iraq to a position of self security - is that not a bad thing?

McCLELLAND: Surely you’d expect by this time the Government would say how many Iraqis are required in their security forces in our area of operations - in the al Muthanna province - and surely they should be saying how long it is going to take to train that number of Iraqis. But we are not even seeing that - we’re seeing inane sort of comments that the Prime Minister keeps using like “we’re going to stay until the job is done”. I mean they haven’t even defined what the job is. The greatest risk for Australia is that while the United States and the United Kingdom are clearly looking at withdrawal of their troops, that we could actually be sucked into the security void they leave behind. In other words, without a mission statement being set by the Government and identifying when that mission is going to be completed, there is a risk that we could be left holding the baby as United States and United Kingdom forces actually leave Iraq.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned by his other comments that we are a focal point for terrorist violence?

McCLELLAND: That obviously has to make sense. I mean the presence of Western forces in Iraq, being an Arabic nation, is itself - according to

Peter Cosgrove and I think it stands to reason - a focal point for terrorist activity. That has to be recognised so that it obviously makes it more essential for our government to have a timetable for getting our troops out of Iraq.

JOURNALIST: So they need to heed the warning?

McCLELLAND: Clearly our government needs to heed the warning from General Peter Cosgrove that the presence of Western troops in Iraq is a motivator for terrorist activity. The concerning thing is our government is not identifying what our mission is, let alone when it will be completed, and there is a real risk that we’re going to be sucked into a quagmire.

JOURNALIST: Do you think General Cosgrove should have said this while he was Defence Chief?

McCLELLAND: Well while he was Defence Chief and before we deployed our troops to al Muthanna he estimated they’d be there for about 12 months. Even in his statement that will be reported later today he is talking about the end of the year. So we already seeing a bit of a mission creep there. But I think it would have been useful for our top military expert to say well look - let’s recognise that the presence of Western troops in Iraq is itself a drawcard or a motivator for terrorist activity there, and let’s really work on a timeline for bring our troops out of Iraq.

JOURNALIST: Do you think he has been openly contradicting the Prime Minister? Is that how you read his statements?

McCLELLAND: Certainly they are inconsistent with each other. The Prime Minister saying that our involvement in Iraq is open ended and General Cosgrove saying he’d like our troops out of Iraq by the end of 2006 because their presence there is itself a drawcard or a motivator for terrorist activity.

[ENDS]