SYDNEY, Australia — Staunch U.S. ally Australia praised President Bush’s pledge to keep forces in Iraq until the fight is won, but opponents of the mission said it reinforced fears that the conflict would drag on indefinitely.
“Iraq has been a conflict without timelines, without an exit strategy and indeed without a mission statement from day one,” Tom Cameron, a spokesman for Australia’s opposition Labor Party said. “Australia needs to refocus on the region and the war on terror instead of getting bogged down in the bloody quagmire of Iraq’s insurgency.”
But the Australian government praised Bush’s words.
“It was a very good speech that highlighted the need to fight for freedom and democracy and the determination of the United States and our other coalition partners to win that fight,” acting Prime Minister John Anderson said.
“The speech highlighted how the insurgents and terrorists in Iraq have failed to prevent the hand over of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, they have failed to prevent popular elections and failed to prevent Iraqis signing up in numbers to join the Iraqi security forces,” he added.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters: “President Bush has been saying that the U.S. will be responsible until the Iraq security forces can stand on their own. There’s no country in the international community that is saying now the U.S. should withdraw.”
Japan has some 500 soldiers based in Samawah, southern Iraq, on a non-combat mission to help repair schools, public facilities and purify water.
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said Jakarta would not second guess the timetable for Washington’s withdrawal from Iraq, but said improving law and order were key to the country’s future.
“What is obvious is that security is key for Iraq to make further progress,” he said. “Indonesia can be relied on to support the government and people of Iraq in its important transition to democracy.”
Indonesia has no troops in Iraq and no plans to send any.
Harry Prasetyo, a porter at a Jakarta hotel, said he had not seen the Bush speech, but he said it was time the United States left and allowed the Iraqis to “build their future by themselves.”
“This conflict has gone on too long. If the United States doesn’t leave Iraq, the Muslim countries around Iraq will increasingly hate America,” Prasetyo said. “The biggest impact is on the (American) people. They can’t go anywhere. They have too many enemies.”
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.