Australia’s Minister for Defence Senator the Hon Marise Payne paid a visit to Iraq in the second week of August 2016 to meet with Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel.
The Minister was accompanied on her visit to Iraq by Australia’s Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston AM, RAN and Commander Joint Task Force 633 Air Vice-Marshal Tim Innes, CSC.
During her visit Minister Payne held meetings with members of Australia’s Special Operations Task Group, which is providing support to the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service as part of the Advise and Assist mission, and ADF personnel from Task Group Taji, which is training the Iraqi Security Forces as part of the Building Partner Capacity mission at the Taji Military Complex.
“ADF are making a significant difference in the campaign and their experience and skills are exceptionally highly regarded by both the international coalition and the government of Iraq” Minister Payne remarked.
“With coalition support the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces has improved markedly and they have now driven Daesh out of more than 40 per cent of the territory they once held in Iraq. ”
Australia is making a substantial military contribution to the coalition ground and air campaign as part of the effort to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“The expertise, skill and dedication of our ADF personnel and their commitment to these important training missions have been invaluable in assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their battle against violent extremism,” Minister Payne said.
Australian Defence Force personnel have been deployed in Iraq as part of Operation OKRA – Australia’s contribution to the international coalition to defeat ISIS (or Daesh). About 780 ADF personnel have deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation OKRA. These personnel make up the Air Task Group (ATG), the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and Task Group Taji (TG Taji).
Ms Payne also visited Task Group Taji – which comprises around 300 Australians and 100 New Zealanders – at the Taji Military Complex near Baghdad.
Recognizing the efforts and sacrifices ADF personnel, Minister Payne said “It’s not easy being so far from home for extended periods”, adding that Australia has high regard for ADF personnel and their families.
During her visit to Iraq in August 2016, Minister Payne also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Dr Haider al-Abadi and Defence Minister Khalid al-Obeidi to reinforce Australia’s commitment to helping Iraq defeat Daesh and to discuss the Government’s recent decision to broaden the scope of Australia’s Building Partner Capacity mission to include Iraqi law enforcement agencies.
Minister Payne also met with the head of the international coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve Commander Lieutenant General Sean Macfarland, to discuss the next steps in the coalition’s campaign plan to assist the Iraqi Security Forces in their battle against Daesh.
She also met Australian Embassy staff and members of the Australian Defence Force.