Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has made his first trip to Baghdad, Iraq to meet with Australian troops helping to fight the Islamic State since taking up office in September.
Turnbull was given an official welcome in Baghdad after flying into Iraq on Saturday which began with discussions with the prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi.
As part of his visit, Turnbull also toured the Taji military base near Baghdad where around 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand were training local soldiers to fight the Islamic State through coalition air strikes and operations.
“In terms of visible boots on the ground it has to be seen by the Iraqi people, it has to be seen to be them regaining control of their own country,” said Turnbull.
“They have to reach the political settlement and reconciliation with their own people.”
The international program in Iraq is currently training 10 brigades but the continuation of Australia’s military contribution is unclear with Turnbull noting that “we do not intend to be in Iraq forever”.
Over the past year, Australia has increased its military presence in the fight against Daesh after deploying 300 troops to Iraq earlier in April last year under the Abbott administration.
The increasing need to curb violent extremism on home soil can also be seen in Australia’s military contributions to the fight against ISIL in the US-led coalition, which is just second to the US.
So far, Australia has given around $230 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq and Syria since 2011 through UN agencies and non-government organisations such as the World Food Programme.
Issues surrounding the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq are expected to continue later this month when Turnbull meets with US president, Barack Obama, on January 18 and 19.
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