Subject: Australia to withdraw 100 troops from East Timor
also Australia to cut troop numbers in East Timor
Australia to withdraw 100 troops from East Timor
AP - Wednesday, October 22
CANBERRA, Australia - Australia plans to withdraw 100 troops from East Timor by early 2009 because the security situation has improved since trouble erupted in the tiny Pacific nation two years ago, Australia's defense minister said Wednesday.
The drawdown of the largest foreign force in the fledgling democracy indicates a steady improvement in security since Dili invited the Australians in May 2006 to send 1,300 troops to restore law and order during a political crisis.
Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said 650 Australian troops would remain as a part of the International Stabilization Force after the troop reduction at the beginning of next year. A further 140 New Zealand personnel would also remain in the 790-man force.
"The East Timorese authorities have shown through their professional handling of the security situation that the time is now right for some drawdown of the Australian ISF presence," Fitzgibbon said in a statement.
Australia, a near neighbor to East Timor, sent troops, war ships, helicopters and armored troop carriers in 2006, when East Timorese police and army forces disintegrated into warring factions and the government collapsed amid widespread looting, arson and gang warfare.
Some of those rebel East Timorese troops were involved in assassination attempts in February again President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
Ramos-Horta was shot twice and has since recovered, while Gusmao managed to escape the gunmen who ambushed him on the same day.
Australia briefly boosted its security presence in East Timor after the attacks to more than 1,000 troops.
Australia to cut troop numbers in East Timor
Wed Oct 22, 2008 4:51am IST
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia will reduce the number of peacekeeping troops it has in East Timor as security there continues to improve, the government said on Wednesday.
"The East Timorese authorities have shown through their professional handling of the security situation that the time is now right for some drawdown," Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said in a statement.
East Timor has struggled to achieve stability since independence from Indonesia in 2002. The army split along regional lines in 2006, leading to violence in which 37 people were killed and 150,000 fled their homes.
In February, rebel soldiers carried out un unsuccessful attempt to kill President Jose Ramos Horta, who was seriously wounded and was flown to Australia for surgery. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped injury in the attack.
Fitzgibbon said about 100 Australian soldiers would return home early in 2009, leaving 650 in East Timor, forming the bulk of a 790-strong stabilisation force that includes troops from New Zealand.
More than 2,500 foreign troops and police remain in the country to help local security forces maintain stability.