TONY ABBOTT has defended Australia’s decision to follow the US back into Iraq, but has refused to offer a time frame for how long we will stay and fight against Islamic State forces.
About 600 Australian military personnel are preparing to leave for the Middle East in anticipation of deployment to Iraq.
Australia’s contribution would include 600 personnel and up to eight Super Hornet aircraft, an early warning and control aircraft, aerial refuelling aircraft and a contingent of Special Forces troops.
The Prime Minister, who is this week running the government from Arnhem Land, admits the commitment may take “many, many months”.
“I’m not going to put a time limit on it,” he told Channel Nine’s Today Show.
And how would he measure success?
“If the ISIL (Islamic State) forces inside Iraq have been defeated, dislodged, if the Iraqi government is once more reasonably capable of maintaining control over its own territory, maintaining internal security, that will be certainly a success,” Mr Abbott said.
Abbott later conceded they are unable to promise “perfect success” or “risk free operations” in Iraq.
“All courses are hazardous. No course has a guarantee of success,” he told ABC radio.
“The one course that has a guarantee of failure is inaction.”
The threat of ISIS is getting worse all the time and the movement has got “much, much, much stronger in recent months,” he said.
“This is not just your standard fight in the Middle East.”
The PM argued on ABC TV that the Coalition is not trying to create a “Liberal pluralist democracy” or “a shining city on the hill”.
“What we are trying to do is to help the people of Iraq to help themselves”.
Mr Abbott praised the work of the US President in co-ordinating the latest Coalition of the Willing.
“This is President Obama. It’s not President George W. Bush. This is President Obama, a very different President who is slow, rightly and properly slow to reach for the gun.”
He denied it was a “tribal war” just specific to the Middle East.
“If that’s all it was, Australia wouldn’t be involved,” he told Channel Seven’s Sunrise.
Instead Australia is working with the Iraqi and Kurdish forces and has been welcomed by the Iraqi government, he said.
“This is one of the fundamental differences between this potential commitment and the commitment that was made 11 years ago.”
The Prime Minister said Australia has taken no decision to back up action in Iraq by taking similar steps in Syria.
“The US President has certainly indicated that American forces are prepared to strike into Syria if that’s what’s needed to disrupt and degrade the ISIL movement but that’s not a decision that Australia has taken,” he told ABC TV.
“Obviously the legalities of action in Iraq with the full permission and co-operation of the Iraqi Government are quite different from action in Syria which is essentially an ungoverned state with a government that we don’t actually recognise.”
Attorney General George Brandis denied Australia was at war.
“It’s a humanitarian mission with military elements,” he told Sky News.
“This is something that is going to take an unspecified and potentially quite long period of time and it would be artificial and I think impossible to put a finite end date on it.”