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Australia winds up Timor security mission

Australian Associated Press - November 22, 2012

Australia has quietly ended its military mission in East Timor, with the flag officially lowered on the 13-year deployment at a ceremony in Dili.

The deployment officially ends on Thursday, although Australian personnel will remain through to April next year to return equipment to Australia, close bases and return property and buildings to the East Timor government.

Australia will maintain an ongoing defence relationship by way of the Defence Cooperation Program. As well, Australian Federal Police (AFP) will continue to support local police.

Australia first deployed troops into East Timor in 1999, with 400 remaining under the United Nations International Stabilisation Force (ISF). The ISF was formed in 2006 after widespread civil unrest, which prompted the East Timor government to invite Australian and international forces to return to restore order.

Defence force chief General David Hurley said the ISF would cease security operations and begin returning equipment and personnel to Australia and New Zealand.

"For more than six years the International Stabilisation Force has provided security to our close neighbour and good friend," he told soldiers parading in Dili on Wednesday.

"We have witnessed the successful conduct of national elections, the formation of a new government and we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the restoration of independence. Each of these demonstrates marked progress."

East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao thanked the departing soldiers on behalf of his government and people.

"As a result we now look to the future with optimism and hope," he said. "The departure of the ISF also represents a new stage for our nation in which we must take responsibility over our own security and for the future of our country."