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Statement by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada(Termination of ASDF Activities in Iraq)

November 28, 2008

Today, the Government of Japan (GOJ), based on its judgment that the goal of airlift support in Iraq by the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) has been achieved, decided to terminate the ASDF's airlift support operations in Iraq by the end of this year, which have been conducted under the Law concerning Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq.

We will dispatch an ASDF unit for withdrawal, and take necessary measures to complete the mission.

The MOD has provided ASDF airlift support to the United Nations and the multilateral forces in the areas centering on Iraq for more than four and half years since March 2004 under the recognition that the reconstruction of Iraq is extremely important for the peace and stability not only of the Middle East but also of the entire world, including Japan.

The ASDF squadron has conducted its mission without even a single casualty, and has been highly appreciated by Iraq and the international community. This is the result of efforts by each of the SDF members who have been engaged in the operation, and the support extended by the people of Japan who have understood the value of the activities of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) which have contributed to the reconstruction of Iraq. I, as Minister of Defense, would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all of them. I would also like to express my special thanks to the families of dispatched SDF personnel for the hard times they have had in their absence.

The Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) took part in efforts that helped Iraq's own initiatives for nation-building in accordance with the Iraq Special Measures Law. The GSDF unit provided medical services, supplied water, rebuilt social infrastructure such as schools and roads, and transported humanitarian aid materials for the people placed in the difficult situation in Samawah of southern Iraq from January 2004 to June 2006.

Even after the withdrawal of the GSDF from Iraq, the ASDF squadron has remained there to airlift personnel and supplies of the United Nations and the multinational forces from Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait to airfields such as Ali, Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq. I am very proud that the ASDF has carried out its mission steadily amid severe conditions, with high temperatures exceeding 50 in summer, and occasional sandstorms.

The GOJ as a whole has actively engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq through the dispatch of the SDF and Official Development Assistance (ODA), which it describes as "two wheels of one cart," along with the international community, which has taken various measures for the stability and reconstruction of Iraq. Such support by the international community and efforts of the people of Iraq have certainly advanced the political process in Iraq, and improved the security situation there.

I remember the situation in Iraq when Japan sent the SDF and began its activities as a member of the international society after the end of the major combat there in 2003. It is a great pleasure for me that the SDF has been able to complete its mission while Iraqi people, on their own initiatives, proceed with reconstruction of the nation under their own democratic government.

The MOD and SDF will terminate the airlift support and start operations to withdraw the ASDF squadron by the end of this year. We will take all necessary measures to ensure safe operations until all ASDF members will safely return home.

Although the ASDF mission in Iraq will end this year, we will make efforts to further enhance our friendly ties with Iraq, taking advantage of the mutual trust cultivated through the SDF activities there.

We hope that Japanese people will extend their understanding and support for the Government's decision today.

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