Islamic State: US asks Australia to fight ISIS in Syria

By @Shayani92 on
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop walk to a meeting at the Putra World Trade Center August 6, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool

The United States of America has officially requested Australia to join the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria. On Thursday, the Australian embassy in Washington received the “long-anticipated request” to expand its role in combating Islamic State’s insurgency, the ABC reported. 

Australia is already involved in fighting Islamic forces by bombing IS targets in Iraq, and now it could deploy the Royal Australian Air Force to direct airstrikes in Syria.

The request from the US stems from its recognition that the base of the Islamic State forces must be attacked more effectively, and frequently. In July, the US ambassador to Australia John Berry also drew attention to the importance of the matter for the US to increase its military presence in Iraq and Syria, saying current commitments had to be strengthened and set right.

Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne has so far kept silent on the development but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of rejecting the request. He told Channel Nine that no decision has been made by the government yet, and that the coalition is all set to brief the opposition about the request before anything would be decided upon.

"I understand a briefing has been organised for early next week about any developments that might occur there,” he added.

According to the ABC, Treasurer Joe Hockey, who sits on Australia's national security committee, said the request would be properly considered. Although he also declined to disclose details of what has so far been discussed, he said that Australia is obliged to expand its fight overseas because the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, or ISIS, "sees no borders", transcending national territories with its attacks and recruitment. 

The Australian also reported that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that her Labor counterpart, Tanya Plibersek, has insisted on dropping the request, believing that instead of bombs, food should be dropped into Syria. However, Plibersek said Bishop had misrepresented her, reminding her that Labor had also supported the actions in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called on the government to brief Labor on any developments in Syria and Iraq before drawing onclusions. When asked asked about a delayed briefing on Syria from the Prime Minister’s Office, he said national securit­y “should be a matter of bipartisanship”.

Earlier in August, Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed there were talks on extending airstrikes against the Islamic State with Coalition partners. Meanwhile, RAAF have been conducting airstrikes in Iraq to bomb ISIS targets since September.

Liberal MP and chairman of Federal Parliament's intelligence and security committee Dan Tehan believes that it is high time for Australia to focus on its commitment of combating international terrorism.

He said that because of ISIS activities, the world's greatest humanitarian crisis is occurring at the moment in Syria, displacing more than nine million people in recent times. "They're raping, they're murdering, they're pillaging and we need to stop the foreign fighter flow to the caliphate in Syria," he added.

However, Defence's Joint Chief of Operations David Johnston said Australia joining airstrikes in Syria would not be a “game changer” against ISIS. "Whether we're operating in Iraq or Syria, the capacity is the same," he added.

Rather, Johnston believes that leading airstrikes in Syria would not only threaten Australia’s mission but also put domestic safety at risk. He said the task would be complex because the environment in Syria was highly dangerous.

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