World Australia announces 300 extra troops for Iraq

Australia announces 300 extra troops for Iraq

 (AA) – Australia is to send an extra 300 troops to Iraq to help train local forces, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

The additional soldiers will join an international training group based at Taji, a Sunni-majority district to the north of Baghdad, The Australian newspaper reported.

The two-year mission would be reviewed after 12 months, Abbott said, and would include “a very strong force protection element” to reduce the threat of attacks by militants posing as Iraqi soldiers.

The soldiers, who will be drawn from regular army units rather than special forces, will bring Australia’s military manpower focused on Iraq to 900, including 170 elite troops “advising and assisting” local forces and a 600-strong Royal Australian Air Force unit supporting air strikes by Super Hornet jets.

Abbott said the decision was the “next phase” of Australia’s contribution to combating Daesh, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is known in Arabic, and could come within a “matter of weeks.”

Last week, New Zealand announced it would be sending 143 soldiers in a joint operation with Australia.

Speaking in Canberra, Abbott said: “I want to stress that we haven’t taken this decision lightly. Ultimately, it is Iraq that must defeat the death cult but we do not want to leave the Iraqis on their own.

“It’s not mission creep. It’s making sure we do what we reasonably can to protect ourselves and Iraq and the wider world from the Daesh death cult.”

He refused to rule out escalating Australian military involvement further.

On Monday, Australia banned travel to Mosul in northern Iraq, seized by Daesh in June last year, for its nationals.

U.S. Central Command has announced plans to retake Mosul with an Iraqi and Kurdish force of up to 25,000 in the coming months.

Australia joined the U.S.-led military alliance against Daesh in October last year. The government has said around 90 Australians are fighting with militant groups in the Middle East and another 20 had been killed.

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