News Corp Australia Network

By Ian McPhedren

Australia's top defence official has warned that the $1 billion-a-year war against Daesh or IS terrorists in Iraq could take another five years.

When the militants captured the key town of Ramadi west of Baghdad it triggered a renewed debate about Australia’s involvement in the campaign to destroy an estimated 30,000 insurgent fighters including about 100 Australians.

Ten months into the war on Daesh, Australia has about 500 troops on the ground in Iraq and another 400 RAAF personnel based near Dubai supporting the mission with six Hornet fighters, a tanker aircraft and an airborne control plane.

The strike jets have flown about 1000 sorties and dropped some 400 bombs and missiles against Daesh targets in Iraq.

Meanwhile the Secretary of Defence Dennis Richardson contradicted the view of his British counterpart Philip Hammond that the war would be over in two years.

“I wouldn’t be putting my money on a one or two year time frame at this point,” Mr Richardson told a Senate Estimates Committee.

“You would have to assume that in all likelihood it will take longer than two years rather than shorter.”

Senior US defence officials have stated that the mission could take up to five years and Mr Richardson did not dispute those claims.

Australia has about 500 soldiers serving in Iraq at present including 300 “trainers” at the Taji military base north of Baghdad and 200 special- forces troops based in Baghdad.

Another 400 are based with the Air Task Group at Al Minhad near Dubai.

Taxpayers will devote about $1 billion to the war against Daesh during the next 12 months.

Acting Defence Chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs revealed that RAAF Super Hornet and Classic Hornet multi-role fighters had conducted more than 968 missions over Iraq since October and had dropped in excess of 372 bombs and missiles against enemy targets.

In addition RAAF KC-30A tanker planes have flown more than 2200 hours refuelling coalition aircraft and the Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft more than 1220 hours directing air strikes.

About 100 trainers and 200 security troops began work at Taji last month to “advise and assist” the Iraqi Army’s 76th Brigade.

“We need to produce a Brigade that fights. We need to show them that they will get fed and paid and their ammunition will turn up and then we need to go out and fight with them,.”

Mr Molan said that would require about 30 Australian mentors for every 500-strong Iraqi Battalion.

“If we do it right at the start we may never need to put boots on the ground.”

Former Army Chief Peter Leahy is totally opposed to placing Australian troops in harm’s way without a greater commitment from the Iraqis and other regional countries including Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

“This is a regional problem and it needs a regional solution,” he said.

Mr Leahy said Iran was on the ground and doing most of the heavy lifting against IS and it was time for others to stand up.

Director of the US Studies Centre and former Army officer and Iraq veteran James Brown said that as the second biggest foreign contributor to Iraq, Australia should have more say in the overall strategy.

He said he was not against the ideas of sending more troops but he was totally opposed to them being locked behind large compound walls.

“They need to be mobile and they need to not be cut off like they were last time we were in Iraq,” he said.

Mr Brown supported the idea of Australians accompanying Iraqi forces.

“If we are in it then let’s be in it and add value, let’s not be risk averse.”

This article was originally published at News Corp Australia Network