Australian and New Zealand forces have started training members of the Iraqi Army as part of international efforts to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in the country.
Comprising 300 Australian and 110 New Zealand soldiers, the combined training force, known as Task Group Taji, is providing instruction to the Iraqi Army’s 76th Brigade troops in a diverse range of military skills including advanced weapon handling, laws of armed conflict and complex obstacle breaching techniques.
The training is being undertaken as part of international building partner capacity (BPC) mission, which aims to assist the Iraqi Government to disrupt, degrade, and ultimately defeat ISIL, also known as Islamic State.
Stationed at the Taji Military Complex northwest of Baghdad, Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel will work to build the capacity of regular Iraqi Army units over the next two years.
An additional 20 ADF personnel will serve within coalition headquarters in Iraq.
The Australian and New Zealand mission seeks to help the Iraqi Government in preparing sufficient forces to lead the counter-attack against the group in an effort to regain control of its territory.
In addition to Australia and New Zealand, the BPC mission is also supported by a number of other international partners, including Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, as well as the UK and the US.
In a statement, Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the 76th Brigade Commander has requested additional training from the Australian-New Zealand training team.
The 76th Brigade’s capability is expected to be further enhanced with delivery of an extensive consignment of military-essential equipment in the coming weeks.
The training comes as the US announced plans to supply 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets to Iraq as early as next week, to help the country counter suicide car bombings by the militants.
Pentagon spokesman army colonel Steve Warren stated that the anti-tank weapons would enable the Iraqi soldiers to destroy incoming suicide car bombers at a distance.
Since losing the Iraqi city of Tikrit last month, ISIL militants have made significant gains with the takeover of Ramadi, and more recently the Unesco World Heritage site of Palmyra in Syria, as well as the former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.
Image: Australian Army soldiers from Task Group Taji and Iraqi trainers supervise Iraqi soldiers as they clear a building during an exercise in Iraq. Photo: courtesy of captain Bradley Richardson / copyright Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.