Canberra, AAP – Australian and New Zealand troops are needed to help train Iraqi soldiers trying to oust Islamic State forces out of their country, a defence analyst says.
Retired Major General Jim Molan said Iraqi forces aided by coalition air power had halted the IS advance.
But at some stage, a counter-offensive had to start and Iraq needed to generate a force big enough to push IS out of Iraq.
Major General Molan, chief of coalition operations in Iraq in 2004-05, said an Iraqi force of up to 10 brigades – a total of 25,000 troops – would be needed and they would need to be trained.
‘What Australia can do is conduct this training with the Kiwis in the same location and feed those troops into the brigades,’ he told Sky News.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott will announce the fresh deployment on Tuesday morning, a week after New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced they would dispatch 143 soldiers to a joint 400-member training mission with Australia.
They would be based at Taji, about 30km north of Baghdad, to instruct Iraqi troops in basic weapons skills and individual and unit skills to prepare Iraqi security forces for combat.
The training would also include planning of operations and medical and logistics support.
Australia’s part in this mission was to be given the go-ahead at the cabinet meeting on Monday night and announced after the joint parties meeting on Tuesday morning.
Major General Molan said it was likely Australia’s contribution to the coalition air campaign against IS would continue.
But the deployment of 200 Australian special forces, who have been advising Iraqi special forces, might no longer be needed.
‘I would suggest the time for the special forces has passed,’ he said.