Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday that troops sent to Iraq remain idle in the United Arab Emirates as the Iraqi government is yet to provide the necessary legal guarantees for its forces. The 200 Australian special operations troops have been sent to “advise and assist” local security forces in the battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Abbott, who has reportedly demanded the same legal protection for Australian troops as those available to U.S. troops in Iraq, said that he was confident that a deal would be reached in the next few days. Australia has also sent six F/A-18F Super Hornet jet fighters to participate in the airstrikes as part of the international coalition formed to fight the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.
"I made it crystal clear that our special forces are ready to go and there is an enormous amount of good that they can do inside Iraq. But we owe it to our special forces only to deploy them with the right legal protections," Abbott told reporters, according to Reuters.
According to ABC News, Iraq's foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari, was previously quoted as saying: “We are absolutely against foreign military bases and the presence of foreign military forces."
However, Abbott reportedly dismissed concerns of a disagreement on the deployment of foreign troops on Iraqi soil, pointing to the presence of American advisers on the ground in Iraq. He also reportedly said that Australia had no intention of conducting “independent combat operations.”
“What we are proposing are advise-and-assist missions to help the Iraqi security forces to reclaim their country, so it is about helping the people of Iraq to reclaim their country,” Abbott said, according to The Guardian.
“The Americans are on the ground in some strength already on what they think is a satisfactory legal basis and we want the same kind of legal protections that the American forces in Iraq have and we think that is fair and reasonable,” Abbott reportedly said, when asked if he thought there was a problem with the proposed agreement for Australian forces.
However, according to reports, the U. S., Britain and Germany, who currently have military specialists assisting the Iraqi forces in some capacity, have been operating without the type of formal agreement that Australia is demanding for its troops.