By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 5, 2007 - President Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard today announced further cooperation between U.S. and Australian armed forces and underscored their unity concerning the war on terror. At a news conference with Howard in Sydney, Australia, Bush said the U.S.-Australia Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty, which gives Australia's defense industry the same status the United Kingdom enjoys in access to American technologies, will benefit both countries.
"It helps cut through the bureaucracy so that we can transform our forces better, share technology better and, frankly, enable our private sectors to work together to develop new defense capabilities to defend ourselves," Bush said.
Howard said he and Bush also agreed to further detailed discussions between the United States and Australia on four components of defense cooperation.
"The first of those is enhanced cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," the prime minister said. "And that could, in fact, involve a stationing -- basing in Australia by the United States -- equipment and stores and provisions that would be available for ready use in disaster relief in our immediate region."
Additional support for training by American and Australian forces in Australia, further cooperation on international surveillance and reconnaissance, and "enhancement of our already robust program of military exchanges and joint operations" are the other three areas Howard said he and Bush agreed to pursue.
"We've asked our officials to work in more detail around each of those four headings, and as a result of that, I'm very confident that there will be further and very significant enhancement of an already very close relationship," Howard said.
Turning to Australia's support for U.S. efforts in the war on terror, Howard said this is not the time to consider scaling down his country's military commitment to the war in Iraq.
"We think that is objectionable on two grounds," he said. "Firstly, it misreads the needs of the Iraqi people, and secondly, at the present time, a close ally and friend such as Australia should be providing the maximum presence and indication of support to our very close ally and friend in the person of the United States," Howard said. "That is our position and I've made that very clear to the president in our discussions."
Over the last four years, Australia has deployed more than 5,180 personnel to Iraq in contingents of about 760 to support rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in southern Iraq and to provide force security.
"Australian forces will remain at their present levels in Iraq not based on any calendar, but based on conditions in the ground, until we are satisfied that a further contribution to ensuring that the Iraqis can look after themselves cannot usefully made by the Australian forces," Howard said. "They will not be reduced or withdrawn."
Howard noted that he and Bush first met on Sept. 10, 2001 -- the day before the terrorist attacks on the United States. Since then, he said, "the paths of our two countries have been parallel in so many ways, in the fight against terrorism and the promotion of democracy and freedom around the world."
Bush said he and Howard discussed Iraq and Afghanistan in their meetings this week.
"As I told John, we're in the midst of an ideological struggle against people who use murder as a weapon to achieve their vision," Bush said. "Some people see that; some people don't see it. Some people view these folks as just kind of isolated killers who may show up or may not show up. I happen to view them as people with an objective, and their objective is to spread a vision that is opposite of the vision that we share."
Continuing to help the Iraqi people succeed in governing and sustaining themselves as a nation allied in the war on terror is important to U.S. and Australian security, Bush said.
"If this is an ideological struggle, one way to defeat an ideology of hate is with an ideology of hope, and that is societies based upon liberty," he said. "And that's what's happening. And it's historic work, Mr. Prime Minister, and it's important work, and I appreciate the contribution that the Australians have made. ... I believe that when the final chapters of the 21st century are written, people will say, 'We appreciate the courage and sacrifice made by our respective countries in laying the foundation for peace.'"
Bush noted that Iraq's Anbar province, which he visited before flying on to Australia this week, was considered lost to al Qaeda early this year.
"The province I saw wasn't lost to the extremists," he said. "The place I went had changed dramatically, fundamentally because the local people took a look at what al Qaeda stands for, and said, 'We're not interested in death (and) destruction. We don't want to be associated with people who murder the innocent to achieve their objectives. We want something different for our children. And as a result of our alliance with these folks, we're now hunting down al Qaeda in this province.'
"And the same thing has taken place across Iraq," the president continued. "The security situation is changing."
Reconciliation is taking place among the various factions in Iraq, Bush said, while acknowledging that "bottom-up" reconciliation driven by local sheiks and tribal leaders is moving faster than the reconciliation effort at the national level. Still, he said, progress is taking place.
"People who don't believe we should be in Iraq in the first place, there's no political reconciliation that can take place to justify your opinion," he said. "If you don't think Iraq is important, if you don't think it matters what the society looks like there, then there's not enough amount of reconciliation that will cause people to say, 'Great, it's working.'
"If you believe like I believe, that the security of the United States and the peace of the world depend upon a democracy in the Middle East and Iraq," he continued, "then you can see progress. And I'm seeing it."
Howard praised the close and longstanding relationship Australia has enjoyed with the United States.
"We have no closer alliance with any country in the world than we have with the United States," he said. "Both historically and contemporaneously, the importance of the alliance between the United States of America and Australia is deeply embedded in the minds of millions of Australians."