Forces: May 14, 2002

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Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer unveiled plans on 7 May to redirect Australia's foreign policy, with a stronger focus on security ties with the United States. He candidly admitted that the 11 September attacks had been triggered work on a new White Paper to direct Australia's regional relationships.

After major changes across the Asia Pacific region (including democracy in Indonesia, Asia's economic crisis, China's emerging power and role, and East Timor's independence) in recent years, Canberra needed to review its priorities. Other new threats to security included emerging cross border issues, like the spread of HIV/Aids, people and drug smuggling, money laundering, and environmental problems.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Downer said "September 11 has jolted the established international order and led to a significant reassessment of the international agenda and shifts in traditional alignments. Today the web of U.S. security alliances in this region are the lynchpin for regional security and prosperity. We must work to match the strong security relationship with a much better economic relationship.. Too often, American decision-makers harm our trade." 

Unlike some countries that only pay lip service to their obligations, the Australians are allies well worth having. On 10 May, the unnamed Australian Special Air Service group commander told the press that his troops could claim roughly 300 of the 500-plus enemy killed during the March battle of Shahi Kot. Two Australian SAS teams had called in critical airstrikes on 3/4 March against Al-Qaeda/Taliban elements attempting to massacre the American special operations teams recovering Navy SEAL P.O. Neal Roberts' body.

The SAS teams were apparently uncomfortable with being in the spotlight and were matter-of-fact about their involvement. However, the Australian sense of humor slipped through when one soldier named "Jason" noted that "if it wasn't fun, I wouldn't be here". - Adam Geibel

 


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