View Full Version : Rudd's Troop Withdrawal Leaves Bush Alone On Iraq

03-28-2008, 11:47 PM
Rudd's troop withdrawal leaves Bush alone on Iraq


Phillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent in Washington
March 29, 2008

KEVIN RUDD was to formally tell the US President, George Bush, yesterday that Australia would withdraw its combat troops from Iraq and compensate by increasing financial and humanitarian help and by training Iraqi security forces outside the country.

Speaking before their White House meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 1am today Sydney time, Mr Rudd said he envisaged the troop withdrawal would not harm the US-Australian alliance because Labor's position had been made clear before the election.

"The challenge for the future is how do we partner with America and other friends and allies in providing other forms of assistance to the Government of Iraq," he said. "I'm confident of our policy setting and I'm confident we'll do so in close co-ordination, consultation and harmony with … the United States."

The meeting came one day after Mr Bush gave a speech in Ohio in which he warned that retreating now from Iraq "would carry enormous strategic costs for the United States".

"It would incite chaos and killing, destroy the political gains the Iraqis have made and abandon our friends to terrorists and death squads,"' he said.

Mr Bush called Iraq "the convergence point for the twin threats of al-Qaeda and Iran" and claimed the 2007 surge of 30,000 extra US troops into the country "was bringing America closer to a key strategic victory".

On his arrival in Washington on Thursday, Mr Rudd lashed out at the Opposition for criticising his 17-day trip abroad.

Mr Rudd said sparing "working families" the full brunt of the global financial crisis was the uppermost reason for his two-and-a-half weeks of talks with the world's most senior business, political and economic leaders.

"The options are … to sit at home and watch the global financial crisis unfold on CNN or to get out here and do something about it," he said.

"The United States and the state of its economy affects the global economy. Australia is part of the global economy and our working families in Australia are directly affected by what happens here in the US."

Mr Rudd said his two responsibilities were to help find a global solution to the crisis while promoting Australia as a good place to invest.

Dr Nelson and others were engaging in "short-term political point scoring", he said.

Mr Rudd's meeting with Mr Bush was to be a far cry from the previous - and almost annual - visits to Washington by John Howard to stand shoulder to shoulder with his friend.

Mr Bush is becoming increasingly isolated in the US over Iraq. Even the Republicans' presidential candidate, John McCain, this week turned his back on the Bush Administration's unilateral approach to foreign policy.

Strategists in Washington said Mr Rudd's position on Iraq had been accepted by the Administration and was unlikely to raise concerns at the meeting, which was to canvas climate change, the global economic meltdown and security in Asia. Mr Bush was also keen to hear Mr Rudd's opinions on China.

The US National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, said the relationship remained in good shape and the important aspect of the meeting was for the leaders "to get to know one another".

By urging European countries to do more in Afghanistan, Mr Rudd has avoided angering the US. He and Mr Bush will attend the NATO summit in Bucharest next week and Mr Rudd said Australia had no intention of adding to the 1000 troops it already had in Afghanistan.

He advocated a co-ordinated strategy to entrench a stable government in Afghanistan that stabilised the country.