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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