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Air SDF operations in Iraq expanded to cover Baghdad

The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force began to expand its operations in Iraq by transporting multinational force personnel for the first time on its C130 aircraft from Kuwait to Baghdad on July 31.

The ASDF now provides full-fledged assistance to the multinational force, mainly composed of the U.S. forces, despite the fact that the Baghdad Airport is situated in a combat zone where surface-to-air attacks have never ceased.

On June 20, the government decided to withdraw Ground SDF from Iraq and to provide military assistance to the multinational force through ASDF's transportation of U.S. personnel and their military goods.

Late last year, the government changed its implementation guidelines, increasing the number of airports in Iraq to which the ASDF will fly from 13 to 24, virtually all airports in Iraq.

The Defense Agency insists that the ASDF only transported multinational force personnel, but it is obvious that the ASDF mission is aimed at supporting U.S. military operations in Baghdad where the U.S. forces are engaged in intensive combat.

The United States has long demanded that Japan expand the ASDF operations in return for accepting the withdrawal of the GSDF from Iraq. In the Japan-U.S. defense ministerial talks held on June 4, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made the same request to Defense Agency Director General Nukaga Fukushiro, and Nukaga promised to consider it.

At the Baghdad Airport, when an Australian Air Force C130 was shot in June 2004, one person was killed, and when a British C130 was shot down in January 2005, ten were killed. As Japan's Defense Agency Administrative Vice-Minister Moriya Takemasa said on July 27, the airport situation is still unpredictable.

The government's decision to expand ASDF operations in this situation clearly shows that it has given in to U.S. demands.

The government has mentioned only Baghdad and Arbil located in northern Iraq as the destinations to which the ASDF will fly, but has refused to make public the ASDF operations, using security concerns as a pretext.

This suggests that the ASDF operations in Iraq in support of U.S. operations will be further escalated while the Japanese people are kept uninformed.
- Akahata, August 1, 2006

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