US President Barack Obama indicated that he has asked Australia for additional help in the fight against Islamic State (Isis/Isil) in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Tony Abbott during the APEC summit in Beijing, following a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders, Mr Obama thanked Australia for being a dependable ally and said the US mission in Iraq was evolving and that more military ‘trainers’ were required.
“Time and again, Australia has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States on issues of critical international security. Today is no different,” Mr Obama said.
“We have seen Australian participation as part of a coalition dealing with Isil (Isis) in Iraq. They continue to be an outstanding member of the coalition in our efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
“Tony personally has expressed his extraordinary commitment to battling foreign fighters that threaten both of our homelands. And obviously, the men and women of the Australian armed forces have terrific capabilities and on many occasions have made extraordinary sacrifice.
“So first and foremost, I want to thank him for the security partnership that we have.”
When asked if he had put a direct request to Mr Abbott for a greater commitment of troops in Iraq, he avoided giving a clear answer but did say he was pressing the case for increased involvement to all coalition allies.
“Australia has been a stalwart contributor to this effort and Tony has been crystal clear about why it’s so important for us to defeat ISIL — not only for the good of the region and the people of Iraq, but ultimately for the people of the United States and Australia and people around the world,” said Mr Obama.
“I am having conversations with Australia and other coalition partners that are already committed to putting trainers in to see how they can supplement and work with us in this overall effort.”
Mr Abbott was equally evasive in his response to the question, neither confirming whether the request had been made nor if he had given Mr Obama an answer.
“There are various different missions here. There’s the advise-and-assist mission. There’s a developing train-and-assist mission,” Mr Abbott said.
“Our priority at the moment is getting our special forces into Baghdad and then into the field on the advise-and-assist mission that we’ve sent them. That’s happening, and I’m confident that our people will do good work.”
Mr Obama announced on Friday that the United States would be committing a further 1,500 troops the operations in Iraq, but insisted they would only be performing in training and advisory roles.
It was confirmed on Tuesday that Australian special forces had commenced their mission inside Iraq.
IMAGE: US President Barack Obama and Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott take part in a bilateral meeting at the US embassy in Beijing on November 10, 2014. Top leaders and ministers of the 21-member APEC grouping are meeting in Beijing from November 7 to 11. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)