Melbourne, Feb.20 : Australia's Defence Force chief, Air Chief Marsha; Angus Houston has said that it is time for Australian soldiers in Iraq to return home.
Air Chief Marshal Houston told a Senate Estimates Committee in Canberra this morning that the Australian Defence Force has completed its task in southern Iraq.
He said Iraqi security forces were comfortably shouldering the load in the provinces of Al-Muthanna and Dhi Qar.
"They (Iraqi troops) have had a number of security challenges over the months and they have come out on top without any support from us," he said. "When you look at the two provinces, it is time to leave.''
Two surveillance aircraft, a warship and a detachment of around 100 soldiers providing diplomatic security in Baghdad would remain, The Australian quoted Air Chief Marshal Houston, as saying.
The Government came to office promising to withdraw the Overwatch Battle Group from southern Iraq by mid-year.
Air Chief Marshal Houston also told the Committee he was preparing a submission to Government on how Australia might more effectively liase with its NATO allies in Afghanistan.