Australia to deploy 300 additional troops to Iraq
Australia’s government said Tuesday it had completed preparations to send about 300 additional troops to Iraq and would deploy them over the coming weeks.
The troops will work alongside about 100 New Zealand troops at the Taji base north of Baghdad. Australia’s government said the combined force isn’t being deployed in a combat role but rather to train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State (IS) group.
The troops are part of an international coalition effort to defeat the group, which is also known as ISIS and Daesh.
Australia already has 170 special forces troops in Baghdad advising and assisting Iraqi security forces. Another 400 Australian air force personnel are supporting airstrikes against Islamic State targets from a base outside Dubai.
New Zealand’s deployment will represent its first in the current conflict.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Defense Minister Kevin Andrews said in a statement the mission would be operational in May and was committed to two years with regular reviews.
“The mission of the Australian and New Zealand trainers will be to help the Iraqi government to prepare sufficient forces to maintain the momentum of the counterattack against ISIL, or Daesh, and regain control of its territory,” Abbot and Andrews said.
The New Zealand Defence Force last week said about 120 of its troops had left for a three-day training camp in Australia prior to being deployed to Iraq.
New Zealand Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee said Tuesday that the mission was on track to be operational toward the end of May but he wouldn’t be providing further details of when troops would travel to Iraq for security reasons.
Brownlee said a total of 143 New Zealand military personnel would be deployed, including some who would be based at the coalition headquarters or other facilities in the region.
Australia said it would also be deploying an additional 20 military personnel to roles at the coalition headquarters.
“This marks the next phase of Australia’s contribution to the international coalition effort to assist the Iraqi government to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat the Daesh death cult,” said Abbot and Andrews.