Peter Cosgrove, the recently retired head of Australia’s defence forces said foreign troops are the reasons which motivate insurgents in Iraq to fight, and Australia should ideally leave Iraq before the end of next year. That way, by removing one of the primary source for the galvanisation of the insurgency movements, the fight against terrorism will be rendered more manageable for the Iraqi security forces.
I agree with him - nothing more riles the average Iraqi than a foreign soldier swaggering around downtown Iraq barking orders at Iraqis in the Iraqis' own country.
The general said the task of the Coalition should be to train Iraqi forces as rapidly as possible, and leave them to conduct their own affairs once they have been adequately trained.
But Australian prime minister John Howard has steadfastly refused to set any timetable for Australian forces to leave Iraq.
Howard is of course playing a greater strategic game - he is keen not to leave President Bush in a lurch with any announcement that would be seen as abandoning the sinking Coalition ship. Howard feels there is more for Australia to gain strategically by standing faithfully beside the USA. In the meanwhile the USA has being announcing its timetable for its phased withdrawal.
General Cosgrove said that while Australia fights terrorism in the only way it can, it must continue to preserve the maximum amount of civil opportunity and liberty that the fight against terrorism was supposed to protect.
Was that remark a reminder to the Australian government not to go the way the Americans have gone and how Tony Blair proposes to go, where civil liberties and freedom are being eroded away in stark contradiction to the claim that the fight against terrorism has been supposed to preserve?