Just to update this thread, the Australian Government has agreed to send a force of approximately 1300 soldiers, as well as naval ships and air force
planes to Dili. The decision followed an official request for assistance by the Government of East Timor in halting violence caused by rioting
ex-soldiers. An advance force of 150 elite commandos has already arrived in Dili, charged with securing the international airport.
For our foreign cousins, a little background: East Timor obtained its independence from Indonesia in 2002 following 27 years of occupation and
oppression. Independence was obtained only after an international peace-keeping force, led by Australia and New Zealand, arrived to repel attacks by
Jakarta-sponsored militants. This intervention led to a radical decline in relations between Australia and Indonesia.
The tiny nation has an army of approximately 1300 men, 600 of whom were recently dismissed for desertion. These disgruntled ex-soldiers took to the
streets and violence ensued. The nascent Government lacks the ability to restore peace on its own and has asked for regional assitance. Australia will
provide the bulk of the troops, with contributions also being made by New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia.
There has been some debate in the Australian media as to the decision to commit more troops to a regional peace-keeping effort. Australian troops are
also serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Solomon Islands. However, I personally feel that it is important to support East Timor's Government in
maintaining order. On a purely humanitarian level, it is the right thing to do. On a more political level, it forestalls the descent of East Timor
into a failed state, which would only worsen regional security concerns for Australia, especially if Indonesia felt the need to try and reclaim the
fledgling state as part of Indonesia.
As for concerns that the deployment will spread Australian troops too thinly should they be needed quickly, I do not feel that this exercise presents
any issue in that regard. East Timor is not far from Australia, so a recall of troops would not be overly difficult. Also, there has been much
discussion in the media of the consequences of spreading ourselves too thinly should something happen in our back yard. Well to that I say, something
happened in our back yard. Now we have to deal with it. The only real threat to Australia's regional security comes from Indonesia, who is
far more likely to become a thorn in Australia's side if East Timor descends into chaos.
There has also been ongoing debate concerning Prime Minister John Howard's increasing willingness to throw his weight around and involve Australia in
regional security operations. I personally feel that this action is justified. Australia is surrounded by struggling countries who could use our help.
We have a responsibility to help them. If this means becoming the police force for the South Pacific, then so be it.
Australians Head for East Timor - BBC
Foreign Troops Head
Toward Troubled East Timor - Reuters
150 Aussie Commandos Arrive in Dili -
[edit on 25/5/06 by Jeremiah25]