Subject: AU: Aus removes last troops from Timor

The Australian

Aus removes last troops from Timor


JUNIOR defence minister Mal Brough today declared an official end to the Australian Defence Force's largest security operation since Vietnam ­ the return of the last infantry soldiers from East Timor.

Mr Brough, the minister assisting Defence Minister Robert Hill, said Australia's contribution to East Timor had reached a significant milestone with the return of members of the Brisbane-based 6th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR).

"This is a significant day in the history of the Australian Defence Force as it marks the end of security operations for Australia's largest military commitment since the Vietnam War," he said.

Australian troops first went to East Timor on September 20, 1999, following the independence ballot and violence caused by pro-Indonesian militias.

At the operation's peak Australia had more than 5,000 troops in East Timor, although numbers had fallen to 440 by the end of the UN mandate on May 20.

Under the new UN mission, Australia will keep about 100 soldiers responsible for engineering and logistics in the new nation.

Today's welcome back for members of 6RAR in Brisbane was attended by Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove, who commanded the original East Timor operation.

Mr Brough said more than 15,000 Australian Defence Force personnel had served with courage, pride and distinction since East Timor operations started.

"Members from every state and territory, both part-time and reserve, have served in East Timor," he said.

"From the moment the Australian personnel arrived they began making an immediate difference to the lives of the East Timorese people.

"Their work has been crucial to the rebuilding of a nation and has established a bond with the people of East Timor that shall never be broken."

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