Australia ready to send military advisers to Philippines, Bishop says
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia is prepared to expand its supporting role in the global fight against the so-called Islamic State by sending troops to train and advise counterparts in the Philippines.
Ms Bishop said on Tuesday morning that she had personally offered Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte “to assist the Philippines in their fight against terrorism”.
She said she had not offered ground troops but had raised as an example of useful help Australia’s current role in Iraq, where about 300 regular troops are training local forces and about 80 commandos are “advising and assisting” close to the front line.
“We offered to provide what support they need,” Ms Bishop said. “They haven’t identified what it is, but obviously we would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training.
“The armed forces of the Philippines are in the process of engaging in a pretty brutal fight with ISIS ??? and we have offered to assist in any way that might add to the likelihood of defeating this scourge in the southern Philippines.”
Islamic State-pledged groups are engaged in a gruelling urban battle with government forces for control of the southern city of Marawi and there are concerns it could create a splinter “caliphate” from which it threatens the rest of the region.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week warned that Marawi could become south-east Asia’s “Raqqa” – referring to the group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria, which has become a magnet for would be jihadists from around the world.
Ms Bishop said that during a visit to Manilla earlier this month she told Mr Duterte what Australia was doing in Iraq to help local forces in the fight against the Islamic State. The Iraqis have recently dislodged the Islamic State’s grip on the key city of Mosul, though fighting continues there and elsewhere.
“I went through with the President in some detail the support we have given in Iraq. That does not include troops on the ground. That is advising and assisting. The President heard my offer,” Ms Bishop said.
She said the United States had made similar offers, while Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia were also prepared to help. US special forces are reportedly already training local counterparts in the Philippines.
Australia is already flying P-3 Orion spy planes over Marawi and the surrounding area to gather intelligence to help the Philippines.
The story Australia ready to send military advisers to Philippines, Bishop says first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.