Australia — Change of command in Middle East

Com­mand of Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Task Force 633 in the Mid­dle East Area of Oper­a­tions changed hands yes­ter­day.
After com­plet­ing a 12-month appoint­ment as Com­man­der of ADF per­son­nel in the Mid­dle East, Major Gen­er­al John Cantwell yes­ter­day hand­ed over respon­si­bil­i­ty to Major Gen­er­al Angus Camp­bell.

Dur­ing a cer­e­mo­ny at the Al Min­had Air Base in the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, also attend­ed by Aus­tralian embassy offi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the UAE Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment, more than 500 ADF per­son­nel watched the for­mal tran­si­tion of Command. 

Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Mar­shal Angus Hous­ton con­grat­u­lat­ed Major Gen­er­al Cantwell on a very suc­cess­ful tour and thanked him for his leadership. 

“Major Gen­er­al Cantwell has done a mag­nif­i­cent job as Com­man­der of Joint Task Force 633. It has been a very demand­ing tour and his ded­i­ca­tion and care for all those under his com­mand has been excep­tion­al,” Air Chief Mar­shal Hous­ton said. 

“I thank Major Gen­er­al Cantwell for all that has been accom­plished over the past year and I wish Major Gen­er­al Camp­bell well as he takes on this role – one of the ADF’s most challenging.” 

Major Gen­er­al Cantwell said that dur­ing his appoint­ment he had observed progress in Uruz­gan Province, where the major­i­ty of ADF per­son­nel are deployed. 

“When our Dutch part­ners depart­ed, Aus­tralia assumed full men­tor­ing respon­si­bil­i­ties for the 4th Brigade of the Afghan Nation­al Army as well as lead respon­si­bil­i­ty for the Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team based in Uruz­gan Province,” Major Gen­er­al Cantwell said. 

“We now have forces oper­at­ing across Uruz­gan Province who have begun in earnest, the train­ing and devel­op­ment task that will result in respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty in Uruz­gan Province tran­si­tion­ing to the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces in two or so years. It is very sat­is­fy­ing to see that the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces con­tin­ue to grow in capa­bil­i­ty and build in strength as we move through this tran­si­tion period.” 

Major Gen­er­al Cantwell said he would retain last­ing mem­o­ries of the ser­vice­men and women who he had met, the efforts that they were mak­ing, the lives that had been lost and the wounds that many have suffered. 

“I have felt deep grief with every one of the 10 deaths and spent time at the bed­side of many of the 64 wound­ed dur­ing my time as Com­man­der. I will nev­er for­get the sac­ri­fice and courage of our fall­en, nor the for­ti­tude of their fam­i­lies and those of the wound­ed,” Major Gen­er­al Cantwell said. 

“I have had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wit­ness first hand the ded­i­ca­tion, com­pas­sion and team spir­it of our sol­diers, sailors, air­men and air­women across the Mid­dle East Area of Oper­a­tions and I am intense­ly proud of each and every one of them.” 

Major Gen­er­al Cantwell also praised the work of the men and women of the Roy­al Aus­tralian Navy con­tribut­ing to US-led Coali­tion efforts to pro­mote mar­itime secu­ri­ty in the Mid­dle East Area of Operations. 

“Their efforts have con­tributed sig­nif­i­cant­ly to low­er­ing the risk of pira­cy on key glob­al trade routes and dis­rupt­ing ter­ror­ist mar­itime routes,” he said. 

Major Gen­er­al Cantwell said it was a priv­i­lege to serve as Com­man­der and he thanked all those per­son­nel who had deployed to the Mid­dle East dur­ing his time at the helm. 

Major Gen­er­al Camp­bell thanked the out­go­ing Com­man­der for his pas­sion for his peo­ple and his hard work. 

“The way for­ward for Australia’s mil­i­tary and civil­ian efforts in Uruz­gan Province is well defined. Our men­tor­ing and train­ing pro­grammes with the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces are pro­gress­ing well. 

The civil­ian pro­grammes under the Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team are resolv­ing a num­ber of local prob­lems while the Afghan Gov­ern­ment is also extend­ing its influ­ence thanks to the grow­ing secu­ri­ty pres­ence across the province,” Major Gen­er­al Camp­bell said. 

“There is pur­pose to our mis­sion here and progress is being achieved. 

“I sus­pect that we, as a coali­tion, will be test­ed by the Tal­iban, which will want to win back the sup­port it has lost, the ground that has been con­ced­ed and the legit­i­ma­cy for­gone through its cam­paign of ter­ror and intim­i­da­tion. We are well placed to pro­vide pro­tec­tion for the Afghan peo­ple but there is no doubt that the insur­gents will re-engage in vio­lence and blood­shed as they con­tin­ue to lose more of their influ­ence across Afghanistan.” 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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