Prime Minister Tony Abbott has flagged that Australia would like to see its substantial military contribution to the war against Islamic State more effectively used.
Abbott said Australia was “talking with our friends and partners about how the air strikes might be more effective and how the Iraqi forces might be better helped”.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said there were “no plans” to increase Australian troop numbers – although it is unlikely that Abbott would decline a request if it were to be made by the Americans and Iraqis in the future.
But Australia already has by far the largest contingent after the United States: 400 air support group, 200 special forces in an advise and assist role and 300 regular troops providing training.
It is believed Abbott’s comment reflects some frustration in the government that more direction is not coming from the Americans, and the Iraqis are not taking greater responsibility.
This week, US President Barack Obama ordered up to 450 more American troops be deployed; as well, a new training base will be set up. The 450 is broadly within the envelope of the American commitment of 3500 trainers and advisers that Obama earlier announced. The present American contingent is at 3100. The extra US troops will train, advise and assist. They will not go into combat.
Abbott told a two-day regional summit on countering violent extremism being held in Sydney that “you can’t negotiate with an entity like [IS] – you can only fight it.
“Daesh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: submit or die,” Abbott said.
“The declaration of a caliphate, preposterous though it seems, is a brazen claim to universal domination.”
Abbott said the “tentacles of the death cult” had extended to Australia with the Martin Place siege.
“We have all seen on our screens the beheadings, the crucifixions, the mass executions and the sexual slavery that the Daesh death cult has inflicted, mostly on Muslims, in the Middle East.
“That is what the death cult has in store for everyone, if it has its way,” Abbott said.
“This is terrorism with global ambitions. The death cult now holds sway over an area as large as Italy in eastern Syria and northern and western Iraq.
“Its affiliates control parts of Libya and Nigeria; it is active on the Horn of Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula and it has ambitions to establish a far province in Southeast Asia. Its senior members are routinely calling on sympathisers to kill un-believers wherever they find them, sometimes specifying Australians.”
Abbott said he was “grateful” for Labor’s support for the government’s plan to strip citizenship from known terrorists who are dual nationals.
And Abbott reaffirmed that the government was “looking at what can be done to deal with Australian citizens who have betrayed our country by fighting with terrorists – this modern form of treason”.
Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Authors: The Conversation