Australian-New Zealand Task Group train Iraqi soldiers to fight ISIL

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The combined Australian-New Zealand Task Group have completed training of more than 700 soldiers from the 16th Division's 76th Iraqi Army Brigade to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in the country.

Undertaken at the Taji Military Complex, northwest of Baghdad, the eight-week training programme focused on the planning and conduct of operations, weapon handling, basic tactical manoeuvre, and integration of intelligence, as well as leadership and ethical behaviour in war.

Camp Taji is one of the four US-led building partner capacity (BPC) mission sites across Iraq.

The graduation of 76th Brigade soldiers takes the total number of Iraqi Security Forces personnel trained by coalition forces across the BPC sites to fight ISIL, also called Daesh, to 10,000.

76th Iraqi Army Brigade commander brigadier general Ali Khalid Abdullah Ali said: "The graduation for this many soldiers who have been armed with the newest weapons represent a huge force to fight against Daesh."

Task Group Taji commander colonel Matt Galton said the graduation marked a significant phase in the brigade's preparations for the counter-offensive to take back Iraqi territory, and ultimately defeat Daesh.

The 76th Iraqi Army Brigade personnel were also trained to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapons prominently used by Daesh.

"The graduation for this many soldiers who have been armed with the newest weapons represent a huge force to fight against Daesh."

NZDF Joint Force commander major-general Tim Gall said: "We have been teaching the soldiers of the 76th Iraqi Army Brigade how to protect their vehicles and themselves from weapons such as IEDs.

"These lessons require them to understand what types of IEDs are being used, how they are used, how to identify them and how to either deal with them or mark them safely (so they can be avoided) and carry on with the mission."

The training required the Iraqi soldiers to clear and identify IEDs in buildings and conduct mounted drills utilising their mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, supplied by the US.

Task Group Taji will now shift its focus to the 1st Battalion of the 71st Iraqi Army Brigade, which started training on 24 June.

Image: Iraqi soldiers from the 76th Iraqi Army Brigade with their M16A2 rifles during their gradation parade at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. Photo: courtesy of captain Bradley Richardson / copyright Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.