Australian PM says Bush election defeat, Rumsfeld ouster won't change US strategy in Iraq
Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Thursday pledged to keep forces in Iraq despite opposition warnings that he faced the same backlash from voters as US President George W. Bush.
According to AFP, Howard stated the US strategy in Iraq would not change as a result of the dramatic defeat by Bush's Republicans in mid-term Congressional elections, and nor would Australia's. Tuesday's vote saw Democrats make sweeping gains across the country to take control of the House of Representatives and squeak ahead in the Senate.
Howard acknowledged that Bush's ousting of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a response to voter discontent over Iraq, but stressed it did not reflect a change in direction. "Clearly the president has reacted to the vote, obviously he has, and that is sensible, but his reaction does not amount to a fundamental change in direction," Howard told reporters.
"Although they are clearly looking for ways in which their tactics may change, their strategy is not going to change. They are not going to suddenly pull out of Iraq."
Bush named former CIA Director Robert Gates as defense secretary. Explaining his decision on Wednesday, Bush portrayed Gates as a force of change and a solid leader who will make the necessary adjustments in Iraq - and elsewhere. "He understands we're in a global war against these terrorists. He understands that defeat is not an option in Iraq,'' Bush said.
Now, he is part of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, that has been asked to help chart a new course in the war-ravaged nation.