‘Loved ones safe’: Minister’s message to ADF families
AUSTRALIAN Defence Force have drawn up contingency plans for a withdrawal from Iraq but no decisions have been made and a warship is expected to still be deployed to the Middle East region on Monday.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds took to the airwaves today to assure families with loved ones serving in the Middle East every effort is being made to ensure their safety.
She said the apparent escalation in tensions between the US and Iran including yesterday's missile attack on two Iraqi bases housing US troops was a concern and situation monitored closely.
But she said there would be no repositioning of Aussie troops just yet; numerous other Coalition countries in Iraq to fight Islamic State (ISIS) have moved troops from Iraq to Kuwait and Jordan in the past 24 hours as a precaution.
She said she expected to be in Perth on Monday to farewell frigate HMAS Toowoomba as it departs for the Straits of Hormuz, the only sea trade route in the Persian Gulf to the open sea where there has been recent attacks and Iran has threatened to block.
The ADF currently has 1000 personnel in the Middle East.
"We always monitor our force protection circumstances to meet new threats and that's what we are doing at the moment in Iraq, we are not taking any sudden decisions because our people are safe and we are monitoring the situation to see what happens over the next couple of days," Senator Reynolds said this morning.
"But it is always, always our top priority (safety)."
Senator said she was in contact with the US and other coalition counterparts and the Federal Government national emergency committee was meeting here to review security.
She said if HMAS Toowoomba left on Monday from Perth it would be the 68th deployment of an Australian frigate to the Middle East and had an important role to play in the maritime security of the region.
Senator Reynolds "warmly welcomed" US President Donald Trump's apparent cooling in rhetoric on the situation.
"Can I assure all Australians and particularly families at home of those who have loved ones serving in Iraq and the wider Middle East generally that all our ADF personnel and diplomatic personnel are safe," she said.
"But we do continue to urge all parties to exercise restraint and de-escalation."