300 Aussie troops to head to Iraq within 24 hours
ABOUT 300 Brisbane-based Australian troops will start being deployed to Iraq on Wednesday as part of Australia's bid to help train Iraqi soldiers to combat the "Islamist death cult".
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says it is not just a matter of international security; it was also about national security for Australia.
"This death cult is not just terrorising the people of northern Iraq, it is reaching out to Australia and if we can disrupt, degrade and ultimately destroy this death cult in the Middle East, that will obviously improve our national security here in Australia," Mr Abbott said.
A total of 330 troops, mostly from Brisbane's 7th Brigade, and 100 New Zealand personnel will be deployed in the next month as part of the Building Partner Capacity mission.
The deployment will be for two years and troops will be based at the Taji military complex about 50km north of Baghdad.
Mr Abbott said work against the "death cult" had been effective; Iraqis retook Tikrit in the past week.
But Mr Abbott said large areas of Iraqi territory were still in the cult's hands.
While the Prime Minister stressed the Australian troops would be there for training - not combat - he said it was still a dangerous place and that he could not guarantee it was "risk free".
But, he said Australia had a long history of shouldering responsibilities to the wider world.
"We will do what we can to keep our country safe, to play our part in the wider world and I'm pleased that we are once more, in the centenary of Anzac, partnering with New Zealand on this important mission."
Mr Abbott said it was hoped an effective Iraqi regular army would be able to gain and hold ground under the rules of combat after two years.
"By strengthening the Iraqi army, we are giving the Iraqi government a whole lot of options that it may not currently have."
Australia will join other countries, including United States, Spain, Italy, Ger
many, Denmark and the Netherlands, in the mission.
Mr Abbott said the country's Air Task Group would continue its work with the air campaign against the Daesh cult.