Mainstream media is reporting today that Australia said ‘no’ when the USA asked for increased input in the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
However, a public statement by Defence Minister Marise Payne today doesn’t seem to support that interpretation, in CONTACT’s opinion.
“The US has asked 40 or so other countries, including European countries, to consider expanded contributions to the coalition, following the attacks in Paris,” Senator Payne said.
“Australia has considered the request from US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in light of the substantial contributions we are already making to train Iraqi security forces and to the air campaign.
“The Government has advised Secretary Carter that our existing contributions will continue.
“Australia is also well placed to make a very important contribution to command roles, and we will also increase the number of ADF personnel in coalition headquarters from 20 to 30.
“Our aircraft in the Middle East are available to provide additional airlift support to benefit coalition humanitarian efforts.
“The Australian Government is also considering providing further humanitarian support for Syria and Iraq in the coming months.
“The Australian Government continues to keep our contribution under ongoing review in consultation with our coalition partners.”
While the Minister’s statement was carefully crafted so as not to mention ISIS, Daesh or any type of warfighting language, the statement also never used the word ‘no’ or any other negative response to American’s request.
In fact, aside from saying that our current contributions to the training mission and the air campaign would remain at current levels, Minister Payne said Australia was about to make a “very important contribution to command roles” by sending an extra 10 officers to fill coalition HQ positions – and indicated that ADF assets (which require people to operate them) could and probably would be used in the near future for humanitarian missions directly related to the conflict in Iraq and Syria.
So, while mainstream media chose to interpret the Minister’s careful and deliberately positive statement in a negative light, CONTACT interprets the same words to mean we are, in fact, sending more people away from their families and homes to bolster the mission – albeit, in modest numbers.
Over the Christmas break, Defence also reported ‘an increased operational tempo’ for the ADF in the Middle East, including that Australia’s Special Operations Task Group and the Air Task Group directly assisted Iraqi forces to retake Ramadi in December.
CONTACT has not forgotten that Australia is already doing a proportionally large share of the work in the region, and we commend the men and women of the ADF for the work they are doing.
Australia currently has about 780 ADF personnel deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Okra, which is the ADF’s contribution to the international effort to combat Daesh (also known as ISIL and ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.
Approximately 400 ADF personnel are assigned to the Air Task Group, 300 to Task Group Taji (training the Iraqi Army) and 80 personnel with the Special Operations Task Group.
In addition, the Australian Defence Force has a warship (200+ people)(currently the 61st rotation), support elements (another 400 people), and a maritime command element in the Gulf (20-ish).
And almost 300 personnel still in Afghanistan.