Task Group Taji 10 School Mentoring Team (SMT) conduct range practice
Task Group Taji 10 School Mentoring Team (SMT) conduct range practice

What next for Aussie troops in Iraq

THE future of Australia's involvement in Iraq hangs in the balance today, ahead of top level military briefings this morning and US President Donald Trump's announcements overnight.

Withdrawal of the nation's 300 troops is set to be discussed at a meeting of the National Security Committee with Defence chiefs this morning.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been in constant communication with defence and intelligence officials since the attack, which he learned about while flying to bushfire ravaged parts of South Australia.

Top military brass have described the situation as "concerning", but would not say whether he expected the situation to escalate and it is considered unlikely that troops will be withdrawn at this stage.

Australian troops and diplomats based in Iraq are "at this point safe" as Australia stands ready to "protect and defend" its personnel, Mr Morrison said after the rocket attacks on US air bases in Iraq.

Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant-General Greg Bilton said the Iranian situation was concerning. Picture: Rohan Thomson/Getty Images
Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant-General Greg Bilton said the Iranian situation was concerning. Picture: Rohan Thomson/Getty Images

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds last night said she was closely monitoring the situation, but a lot would depend on Mr Trump's response expected overnight.

"I think it's a little premature to make any assessment until President Trump has come out and given has statement overnight," she said.

Lieutenant-General Greg Bilton, Chief of Joint Operations, yesterday confirmed that there had been no rocket impacts at Taji camp, where most Australian forces are based.

Lt Bilton said all defence personnel and diplomatic staff had been accounted for and contingency planning had begun.

"We're preparing those plans for a raft of different circumstances," he said.

"What I will say, we have our people postured in the safest possible manner as we make sure their well being is being accounted for."

 

 

He said he was advising the government on options available, but would not be drawn on whether that would include troop withdrawal from the region.

There are about 300 Australia troops in Iraq at the moment, mostly at Taji or Baghdad

Mr Morrison will meet with the National Security Committee in Canberra this morning and has been receiving regular updates.

"I gave authority (to the Chief of the Defence Force) this morning to do what was necessary and to take what actions and decisions were necessary to protect ADF personnel and diplomatic staff in Baghdad," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been in contact with defence officials over the conflict. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been in contact with defence officials over the conflict. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz

"It's a matter of protecting and defending those Australians where they are, and working closely with our partners in the region."

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said he called on all parties in the conflict to exercise restraint.

"The actions of the United States have led to another response from Iran. This is potentially very dangerous indeed," Mr Albanese said.

"The Australians are located very close to where the Americans are located in the area that's been targeted in Iraq. So, they're just next door.

"The first priority has to be keeping Australians safe."


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