Middle East

Timeline: Australian troops in Iraq

aussie soldier iraq

As Australian combat troops begin withdrawing from Iraq, we take a look at what role Australian troops played in the Iraq War and reconstruction effort. Video: Australian troops leave Iraq

The Australian involvement in Iraq consisted of around 900 troops divided amongst several specialised units in and around the country, with about 500 personnel jointly supporting Australian military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Video: Australian troops leave Iraq

The largest contribution was the Overwatch Battle Group West, based at Camp Terendak in Talil, in Southern Iraq and consisting of 515 soldiers. This group has begin witdrawing on Sunday.

2003: The invasion of Iraq

2002: US President George W Bush calls for regime change in Iraq and demands that they comply with United Nations weapons inspections.

January 23, 2003: Australia provides one of the most substantial combat forces contingents, under the Operational codename of Operation Falconer.

350 personnel leave Sydney on HMAS Kanimbla, including three Royal Australian Navy Ships, 2 P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, Chinook helicopters, C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and RAAF 75 Squadron equipped with 14 F/A-18 Hornet fighters.

February 16, 2003: An estimated 250,000 people protest in Sydney against the war. Another10,000 around the world held similar protests.

March 20, 2003: The Iraq War begins with the US led invasion of Iraq by a multinational coalition composed of US and UK troops, supported by smaller contingents from Australia, Denmark, Poland and other nations.

April 2003: Baghdad falls into anarchy and violence. Australia lauches Operation Baghdad Assist to provide humanitarian support.

April 17, 2003: Australian Prime Minister John Howard announces more than 2000-strong forces will be home by the end of June.

July 17, 2003: HMAS Kanimbla and 350 troops return to Sydney.

2004: The insurgency expands

Spring 2004: Violence increases; foreign fighters from around the Middle East as well as al-Qaeda in Iraq (an affiliated al-Qaeda group), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi help to drive the insurgency.

2005: Elections and transitional government

Australian troops are redeployed and assumed responsibility for supporting Iraqi security forces in one of Iraq's southern provinces.

January 31, 2005: Iraqis elect the Iraqi Transitional Government in order to draft a permanent constitution.

Mid-2005: Australian combat troops are deployed initially to Camp Smitty in Al Muthanna province in mid-2005 with their key objective being to guard Japanese engineers engaged in reconstruction work.

October 15, 2005: A referendum is held; the new Iraqi constitution is ratified.

December 2005: An Iraqi national assembly is elected, with participation from the Sunnis as well as the Kurds and Shia.

2006: Civil war and permanent Iraqi government

The beginning of 2006 was marked by government creation talks, growing sectarian violence, and continuous anti-coalition attacks.

Sectarian violence expanded to a new level of intensity following the al-Askari Mosque bombing in the Iraqi city of Samarra, on February 22, 2006.

21 April, 2006: Jacob (Jake) Bruce Kovco, a private in the Australian Army dies while deployed in Iraq, fatally wounded by a single shot to the head from his own Browning 9mm sidearm.

A military inquiry found that Kovco accidentally shot himself while mishandling his pistol, a conclusion which was disputed by his family.

July 2006: Security responsibility for Al Muthanna is handed back to Iraqi authorities and the Australian group relocated to Tallil, taking on the overwatch role to provide in-extremis support for Iraqi authorities across the two provinces.

2007: US troop surge

Bush proposes 21,500 more troops for Iraq.

Febraury 22, 2007: Hundreds of protesters marched through Sydney a day before the arrival of Vice President Dick Cheney demanding Prime Minister John Howard pull troops out of Iraq.

November 30, 2007: The new Rudd government announces the pullout of the country's 550 combat soldiers by early 2008.

December 30, 2007: Saddam Hussein is executed

2008: No end to a bloody war

March 2008: The conflict enters its sixth year, with the Iraqi death toll ranging from 100,000 to over a million since the war began.

1st June, 2008: Australian combat troops begin pulling out of of Tajili. The 550-member Overwatch Battle Group-West had contributed to the individual and collective training of 33,000 Iraqi army soldiers.

Australian forces also helped train the Iraqis in logistics management, combat service support and importantly, effective counter-insurgency operations.

Some 300 troops will remain inside Iraq, including the 110-member security detachment guarding Australian diplomats and others in Baghdad, and a further 500 will remain in the region, including 200 sailors aboard the frigate HMAS Stuart in the Persian Gulf.

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