§ Lord Burlison
There are now over 10,000 troops in the international force in East Timor (INTERFET) and the Australian Force Commander has agreed that circumstances now enable the withdrawal of British forces.
The UK currently has some 290 service personnel in East Timor. Lead elements of the contingent from 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles will return to their base in Brunei on 8 December. The remainder of the troops, including UK-based headquarters staff and signallers, and an RAF C-130 aircraft deployed to the region, will be withdrawn by 15 December.
Although the UK does not plan to contribute units to the follow-on UN peacekeeping force (UNTAET), a small number of military observers will be provided. The Government have also offered Australia assistance with airlift for a short period during the transition from INTERFET to UNTAET.
The deployment of the Gurkhas, RAF C-130 aircraft, and earlier of HMS "Glasgow", is another example of the UK's ability to provide forces capable of decisive action in the difficult initial stages of a crisis. British troops were able to lend their considerable expertise and experience to the international force. This has assisted the swift return of over 100,000 refugees.