Australian soldiers deployed to support BPC training mission in Iraq
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has deployed 300 soldiers to support the international building partner capacity (BPC) training mission in Iraq.
Primarily drawn from the Brisbane-based 7th Brigade, Royal Australian Regiment, the soldiers will form a combined Task Group Taji alongside 100 New Zealand Defence Force personnel as part of the international effort to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in the country.
Deploying under Operation Okra, Australia's contribution to the military intervention against the terrorist group, Task Group Taji will be supported by a training team as well as command, force protection and support elements.
Australian Defence Force chief air chief marshal Mark Binskin said the task group started preparations for the BPC mission in March, after securing approval from the government.
"Our Australian personnel have worked closely with their New Zealand counterparts to form Task Group Taji.
"Together they have undertaken an extensive pre-deployment training schedule culminating in an intensive mission rehearsal exercise in southern Queensland.
"Although Australian personnel will deploy to the BPC mission in a non-combat role, Iraq remains a complex and dangerous environment and their pre-deployment training focused on replicating the challenging conditions the task group may face in Iraq."
Operating out of Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad, the Australian and New Zealand trainers will help the Iraqi Government to prepare sufficient forces to maintain the momentum of the counter-attack against IS, and regain control of its territory.
The BPC mission is also supported by military personnel from Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, and the US, which recently claimed that the terrorist group has lost around 25% to 30% of its territory in Iraq.
Pentagon spokesman army colonel Steve Warren said: "Among other strategic infrastructure and sizeable towns where ISIL has lost territory are Mosul Dam, Zummar and the vicinity of Sinjar Mountain.
"This equates to approximately 5,000 square miles to 6,000 square miles [of Iraq territory] since the peak of [ISIL] territorial influence in Iraq in August 2014."
Warren added that the combination of coalition air power and Iraqi ground forces have been successful in pushing ISIL front line either west or south, in integral areas such as Erbil, Babil, Baghdad and the Kirkuk governances.
Australia plans to support the BPC mission for two years, with progress to be reviewed regularly.
Image: Australian Army personnel representing Iraqi Security Forces receive instruction during a mission rehearsal exercise at Green Bank training area in Queensland. Photo: courtesy of LCPL Kyle Genner / Department of Defence.