Aussie imperialists gear up

The Australian

AFP to raise armoured unit

Cameron Stewart | November 07, 2007

THE Australian Federal Police plans to have its own fleet of armoured vehicles to send to hotspots around the globe by late next year.

But the AFP denies the move will transform it into a paramilitary force, saying the new so-called “protected armoured response vehicles” will not be mounted with guns or other weapons.

Instead the armoured fleet will be used to protect AFP officers from attacks while deployed on peacekeeping missions in areas of civil unrest such as the Solomon Islands and East Timor.

About 320 AFP officers are on overseas deployments in more than 10 countries including the Solomons, East Timor, Nauru, Sudan, Cyprus, Cambodia and Afghanistan.

“These vehicles will assist in providing appropriate levels of protection for the often unstable environments that our members face offshore,” an AFP spokeswoman told The Australian.

“The fatal shooting of Officer Adam Dunning whilst on mobile patrol in the Solomon Islands and the injuries sustained by AFP officers during the Honiara riots demonstrate the inherent dangers involved in peacekeeping operations and capacity building.”

The move reflects a sharp expansion in the overseas operations of the AFP in recent years in both peacekeeping roles and counter-terrorism.

The AFP says it needs its own armoured vehicles on overseas deployments because the Australian Defence Force is not always present and cannot be relied on to protect AFP officers. The AFP declined to say how many armoured vehicles it wants and what the fleet will cost. It has not yet decided what type of armoured vehicle it will buy, but tenders closed last week and the AFP says it wants the new fleet to be delivered by late next year.

Possible purchase options shown to The Australian range from heavily armoured vehicles with similarities to their military counterparts to light armoured vehicles which look like Land Rovers.

The AFP’s armoured vehicles will be used only for overseas operations and will not be used in Australia.

The move follows the $500million plan announced last year by AFP commissioner Mick Keelty to double the AFP’s international force to about 1200 officers.

The most likely destination for the armoured vehicles is the Solomon Islands, where 213 AFP officers are deployed to help keep civil order.

A further 50 AFP officers are serving in East Timor while 15 are helping keep the peace in Cyprus.

The armoured vehicles are likely to be used by the AFP’s new overseas anti-riot squad.

Expansion of the AFP’s presence overseas is designed to avoid situations where heavily armed soldiers have to perform lengthy law and order missions better suited to well-trained police.

The multi-million-dollar investment in the AFP, including the armoured vehicles purchase, recognises that both army and police are vital to the success of long-term nation-building missions such as those in East Timor and the Solomons.

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