Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Italian forces in Iraq, some U.S. allies are reassessing their contributions to the campaign, but Australia Friday became the latest to reaffirm its commitment to the effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq.
Italy, Britain, Poland, Spain and Portugal have also vowed not to be intimidated by the violence.
Australia has decided to extend the deployment of a maritime patrol aircraft detachment in Iraq by another six months.
Defense Minister Robert Hill, who spent two days in Baghdad this week, said Friday the Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion detachment was originally due to return home in January, after 12 months supporting both the campaign against terrorism in the Gulf region and operations in Iraq.
"However, their work has proved invaluable to the coalition and we have decided to extend the deployment for a further six months," he said.
According to the Department of Defense in Canberra, the detachment comprises some 160 personnel, with two aircraft and associated command and support elements.
Hill said the aircraft had been carrying out maritime patrols to prevent smuggling, and also "conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Iraq to directly support land forces."
After Britain, Australia sent the next largest military contribution to the U.S.-led war to topple Saddam Hussein, committing ships, planes and 2,000 personnel, including elite Special Forces troops.
About 850 Australian personnel remain in Iraq, as part of the stabilization and rehabilitation effort.
They include a naval component involved in maritime interception and logistics support, a C-130 Hercules detachment, security and explosive ordnance staff, air traffic controllers, staffers training the new Iraqi defense force, and experts involved in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction.
Prime Minister John Howard acknowledged Friday that Australian personnel in Iraq were at risk, saying that had been understood from the beginning.
"These latest deaths are just another illustration of the murderous, indiscriminate nature of the terrorist attacks that are going on," he said in a radio interview. "And if the rest of the world succumbs to this kind of intimidation, then that will be a signal to terrorists in different parts of the world - if you keep it up, you will eventually win."
Meanwhile, following Wednesday's lethal bomb attack on Italian forces in southern Iraq, Japan has decided to delay sending forces it promised earlier.
South Korea also demonstrated reluctance, saying it would send 3,000 non-combat troops, rather than the 5,000 combat troops requested by Washington.
But Britain, the main U.S. ally in the Iraq campaign, has given no indication that it intends scaling down its contribution, on the contrary suggesting Thursday that it could bolster its troop numbers there, currently at around 10,000.
And Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country has contributed 2,400 soldiers and police officers, said after this week's attack Italy would not be intimidated.
Eighteen Italians were among the 31 people killed in the suicide bombing in Nasiriyah.
Poland, which has 2,350 troops in Iraq, and Spain, with a 1,250-strong contribution, also pledged to maintain their support. Portugal went ahead with a deployment of 128 military police despite the Nasiriyah blast.
U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid said in Florida Thursday a "brutal and determined cadre" of no more than 5,000 well-armed and well-financed insurgents had stepped up the campaign of violence against the U.S. and its allies in recent weeks.
"They're a despicable bunch of thugs that will be defeated," he told a press briefing.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that with patience, perseverance and courage, we will see this thing through," added Abizaid, who commands 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
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