WEB SPECIAL - War on Terror

Report by Charles Strathdee. - 19th August 2003

The Canadian frigate HMCS St Johns on the front line in the War on Terrorism. Photo: Canadian MoD.

The Canadian frigate HMCS St Johns on the front line in the War on Terrorism. Photo: Canadian MoD.

The pressure is still on for both Australia and Canada in the War on Terrorism, the former still contributing warships to the Gulf while the latter has reluctantly been forced to scale back its major commitment to the War on Terrorism.

According to reports, the leading role that Canada has played in the Coalition counter-terror effort, sending up to three warships at a time to spearhead a maritime interdiction force in the Arabian Sea, has forced it to take an operational pause. The Halifax Class frigate HMCS Fredericton is currently the only Canadian warship off Arabia and, after sister ship HMCS Calgary has replaced her at the end of the summer, Canada's small fleet will not be able to contribute to the Coalition for at least a year. Limited manpower - 97 per cent of Canada's 4,100 sea-going sailors, and 16 of its 18 warships, have been to the Middle East since the autumn of 2001 - and the failure of the government to give it sufficient funding to maintain the tempo have forced the pause. There will be a more detailed report on the situation in the October edition of WARSHIPS IFR.

Meanwhile the Australian assault ship HMAS Kanimbla returned Fleet Base East, Garden Island, Sydney, on July 17, after a six-month deployment to the Gulf that included war service.

The Australian assault ship HMAS Kanimbla returns to Sydney following her leading role in the war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Photo: RAN.

The Australian assault ship HMAS Kanimbla returns to Sydney following her leading role in the war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Photo: RAN.

The Kanimbla was the command and control platform for Australia's Task Group, with the ship acting as the lynchpin for the Coalition effort to control Iraqi shipping. Boarding operations were co-ordinated from Kanimbla. The ship's role in foiling the Iraqi mining effort was also significant, with Kanimbla's boarding teams finding a total of 88 sea mines in Iraqi vessels.

Just three days prior to Kanimbla's return, the frigate HMAS Newcastle left Sydney to take over Gulf patrol duties from sister ship HMAS Sydney. The Australian government has tasked Newcastle with supporting "the stabilisation, reconstruction and rehabilitation" of Iraq. Meanwhile in Iraq, the day before Kanimbla entered Sydney harbour, attacks continued on American troops, with a soldier killed in an attack on a convoy west of Baghdad. A Surface to Air Missile (SAM) was fired at a US Hercules troop transport aircraft as it approached the Iraqi capital's airport on the same day. It was the first SAM attack since April but the aircraft was not hit and landed safely. A cycle of Coalition military operations to sweep up the remnants of the Iraqi regime has involved units from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF). In July marines from the I MEF discovered and destroyed eight SA-7 anti-air missiles located at an arms dump in Muhawil in southern Iraq. Such incidents, and the general success of Coalition efforts to stabilise the majority of the country, have gone largely unreported by the international media. At the same time, on the other side of the world, in Washington D.C., British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a joint meeting of Congress on July 17: "We know there are states in the Middle East now actively funding and helping people who regard it as God's will in the act of suicide to take as many innocent lives with them on their way to God's judgment."

Mr Blair pointed to North Korea as a clear and present danger, saying: "This isn't fantasy. It is 21st Century reality and it confronts us now." The Prime Minister said that, despite no Weapons of Mass Destruction being found, he believed it was right for the US and UK to go to war against Saddam Hussein's regime.

"We promised Iraq democratic government," said Mr Blair. "We will deliver it. We promised them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all their citizens, not a corrupt elite, and we will do so. We will stay with these people so in need of our help until the job is done."

In a press conference after Mr Blair's address to Congress, President Bush stated: "The United States and Great Britain have conducted a steady offensive against terrorist networks and terror regimes. We are dismantling the Al-Qaeda network leader by leader, and we're hunting down the terrorist killers one by one. In Afghanistan, we removed a cruel and oppressive regime that had turned that country into a training camp for Al-Qaeda.." He continued: "In Iraq, the United States, Britain and other nations confronted a violent regime that armed to threaten the peace, that cultivated ties to terror and defied the clear demands of the United Nations Security Council. Saddam Hussein produced and possessed chemical and biological weapons and was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons programme. He used chemical weapons in acts of murder against his own people...We rid the Middle East of an aggressive, destabilising regime. We liberated nearly 25 million people from decades of oppression."