Feature Article - 11 September 2001 - consequences for Defence
On 11 September 2001, two civilian passenger aircraft were flown into the World Trade Center in New York, a third into the Pentagon in Washington and a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. This terrorist attack claimed over 3,000 lives, and caused a shift in the worldwide focus on security. Australia, like most of the international community, was left feeling shocked and insecure, forcing a rethink of both security and national defence.
In Australia, national security has been reviewed and tightened with a focus on deterring and detecting terrorist attempts. Defence has been involved in this process in concert with other government agencies, through both individual and cooperative measures and task forces. The incident response regiment, an army unit originally created for the 2000 Olympics, has been reconstituted and is designed to help detect and react to explosives and chemical, biological and radiological threats. The Government has also increased Australia's military counter-terrorist capability, with two new counter-terrorist units based at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney, which have the capability to respond to national security threats. These units are the incident response regiment, which will be able to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive incidents both domestically and in support of Australian forces deployed overseas, and an east coast based tactical assault group which is an elite unit able to deploy at short notice to respond to a terrorist incident, such as a hostage siege.
The most obvious repercussion of 11 September 2001 has been the war against terrorism. Australia was one of the first nations to offer assistance in the emerging coalition against terrorism. The ANZUS Treaty was invoked for the first time in its 50-year history, not only to demonstrate Australia’s support and commitment to our major ally, but also in recognition of the common threat represented by terrorism. Australia will remain involved in the coalition against terrorism into the future, as the threat posed by terrorism and transnational crime will require vigilance and perseverance for an indeterminate period.
Australia deployed over 1,550 personnel to contribute to the war against terrorism. These forces were committed to combined operations against the terrorist groups responsible for the 11 September attacks, to support the forces of the United States of America and other coalition partners in the campaign, and to provide protection for key coalition forward bases.
The Australian Defence Forces have performed conspicuously well within the international coalition. Australian special forces deployed to fight in Afghanistan have proved to be a welcome and highly effective contribution. Navy and Air Force units have played a less visible but important and successful role in supporting the land forces and participating in related coalition operations.