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Australia may join New Zealand’s Iraq training mission

tony abbott

Auckland: Australia is considering joining New Zealand in a training mission in Iraq to help counter the Islamic State (IS) militant group, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today.

New Zealand announced Tuesday it will send troops to Iraq on a “behind-the-wire” non-combat mission to boost the local military’s ability to fight the jihadists.

Abbott said while Australia had been heavily involved in the campaign against the Islamic State group for some months, New Zealand’s new commitment would inform its future assistance.

“What we are now considering is joining New Zealand on an additional training mission with the Iraqi regular army,” Abbott said after meeting with New Zealand counterpart John Key in Auckland.

“We still have to finalise our processes in Australia and I expect that that will happen in the next few days.”

New Zealand’s decision to send about 140 troops to Iraq after a request from the government in Baghdad has not been without controversy, with the move opposed by all major opposition parties.

Abbott said he backed Key’s decision.

“As far as I am concerned, good on John Key for being prepared to shoulder a reasonable share of responsibility for this particular battle,” the Australian leader said at a joint press conference.

“Because the death cult is reaching out to the world. As peaceful countries we are reluctant to reach out to conflicts thousands of miles away, but those conflicts are reaching out to us.”

Since August 2014, the US military — along with allies including Australia — has been conducting a campaign of air strikes against the jihadists in Iraq and Syria. Australia’s role is restricted to aerial support, training, advice and intelligence.

“Australia is proud to be part of an international coalition working to disrupt and degrade and ultimately destroy this death cult,” Abbott said.

“It is the world’s fight and it’s important that Australia and New Zealand be involved.”

In announcing the deployment last week, Key said New Zealand was part of a 62-nation coalition against the Islamic State organisation, which has captured swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria.

At the time Key said that New Zealand troops would most likely work alongside their Australian counterparts at a military base in Taji, north of Baghdad for the mission, which would not extend beyond two years.

The proposed joint mission comes as Australia and New Zealand mark the centenary of their joint Gallipoli campaign of World War I.

Key said the close allies also discussed trade issues and information-sharing at their annual talks.

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