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Japan to withdraw air defense force from Iraq
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Japan is to announce the withdrawal of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) in Iraq by the end of the year, marking a full end to the ASDF's mission in Iraq that began almost five years ago.

The decision was made by Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Cabinet ministers concerned at a meeting of the national security council in the morning. Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada is expected to issue the order in the afternoon, Kyodo News Agency said.

The government cited improvements in the political and security situation in Iraq, as well as the expiration at the end of the year of a U.N.resolution authorizing the current deployment of multinational forces in the country as reasons for withdrawal.

Kyodo said Japanese government is expected to focus on reconstruction efforts in and around Afghanistan through the refueling mission in the Indian Ocean by the Maritime Self-Defense Force after the ASDF activities coming to an end.

The ASDF continued its airlift mission in Iraq, even after Ground Self-Defense Force troops were withdrawn from the country in 2006.

The ASDF began airlifting activities in Iraq in March 2004. Deploying around 200 personnel, the ASDF has operated mainly from an airbase in Kuwait, using three C-130 transport planes.

The ASDF is currently airlifting troops and materials for the U. S.-led multinational forces as well as for the United Nations to three airports in Iraq, including the country's capital, Baghdad.

As of Nov. 26, the ASDF had transported around 671 tons of materials in 810 separate airlifts.

Japan announced in mid-September that it would begin mulling complete withdrawal by the end of the year.

(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2008)

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