Australian troops lower flag at Iraqi base, marking end to combat ops

Australian troops in Iraq officially ended combat operations Sunday, the Department of Defense said, fulfilling a campaign promise of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Troops held a ceremony that included lowering the Australian flag, which had flown over Camp Terendak in Talil, southern Iraq, a Department of Defense spokesperson said, speaking on condition of anonymity as required by the department. Australia, a staunch US ally, was one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war five years ago. But Rudd was swept to office last November on the promise to bring Australia's 550 combat troops home by the middle of this year. Several hundred other troops will remain in Iraq to act as security and headquarters liaisons and to guard diplomats. Australia will also leave behind two maritime surveillance aircraft and a warship to help patrol oil platforms in the Gulf. Rudd said the Iraq deployment has made Australia more of a target for terrorism.