Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott fears the US is being forced to carry an unequal load in the fight against IS in Syria and Iraq and is considering sending more ground troops to the Middle East to assist in the battle.
He believes “the United States is obviously the leading Western country,” that should be supported and “Australia has been more than ready to be an utterly reliable partner to the United States.”
Speaking to reporters in the Australia national capital Canberra, ABC News reports Mr Abbott wants to continue to stand alongside the US to rid the world of the scourge of jihadi terror. His remarks follow the fall this week of the strategic Iraqi city of Ramadi.
“The serious setback in Ramadi just emphasises how challenging the task is and how necessary the task is,” Mr Abbott said. “The final point I should make is that the one Iraqi security force element that most stuck to its post and withdrew from Ramadi as a formed unit, as opposed to a disorganised group, was the unit, the counter-terrorism service of the Iraqi security forces that we have been advising and assisting in our initial placement at Baghdad International Airport.”
Australia currently has about 600 personnel involved in the fight against the IS group as part of “Operation Okra”. These include 300 soldiers of the 2nd Commando Regiment attached to Task Group Taji which is helping to train Iraqi forces. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is supplying FA/18 attack aircraft, air-to-air refuellers and command and control aircraft in the skies over Iraq.
“The United States is obviously the leading Western country,” Mr Abbott said, before promising to consider doing more to help a traditional ally:
“We don’t expect the United States to do what needs to be done in the defence of decency right around the world on its own and that’s why Australia has been more than ready to be an utterly reliable partner to the United States.
“I think in this, as in so many things, the world does look to the United States for leadership. As always, we stand ready to work with our partners and allies, the United States, the Iraqis, our other international and regional partners, to do what we can to help.
“It’s quite a substantial contribution that we are already making.”
Australian troops first went into battle alongside their American allies in World War One at the battle of Hamel. That moment in July 1918 was the first time in the war that American troops participated in an offensive action under non-American command. Ten American companies joined with Australian comrades under Australian command in northern France, although six were recalled before the battle.
Since then the two countries have gone into harm’s way together in all theatres of battle in World War Two on land, air and sea as well as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.