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  • Australian soldiers board an Australian Air Force aircraft. (Photo: AFP)

    Australian soldiers board an Australian Air Force aircraft. (Photo: AFP) | Photo: AFP

Published 16 September 2014
Opinion

Australian fighter jets and 600 military personnel will be in the United Arab Emirates within days, before joining the international force fighting the Islamic State in Iraq.

Australia will send the first of 600 troops to the Middle East on Tuesday, with more to be sent over the next week, which will cost the nation around US$500 million a year.

The first convoy will be fighter jets along with the troops and support staff, and will include special forces soldiers, who will be based in the United Arab Emirates on standby.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that, "It's envisaged the commitment in Iraq will cost about the same as our commitment in Afghanistan cost.”

He explained that, "That was in the order a quarter of a billion dollars every six months, but the final costings are obviously yet to be worked out."

The head of state added that it would be “absurd” to say when the operations would end.

The Prime Minister said the special forces soldiers would act as military advisers within the battalion headquarters of Iraqi or Peshmerga forces. They would be armed, but not go into battle.

"We're not conducting combat operations independently," he told Fairfax Radio.

"They'll be there to try to ensure that those forces are acting effectively against their opponents."

Abbott claimed that it would be a “mission” rather than “war” because it came out of the international support for the Iraqi government adding that "this is essentially a humanitarian operation."

"Obviously we've sent this force to the Middle East with an eye to engaging in combat operations inside Iraq, but we're not fighting another country, we're fighting the terrorists of the ISIL death cult," he said, using an alternative name for Islamic State.

Australia last had troops in Iraq up until 2009.

Meanwhile, after carrying out more than 160 air strikes in northern Iraq, U.S. warplanes have begun their first strikes near Baghdad. 

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