Australia – like nations the world over – has been appalled by the atrocities and the human suffering inflicted by Daesh, a barbaric terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
The threat affects us all, and we all have a role to play in degrading and destroying Daesh and others committed to violent extremism.
Australia has responded.
We’ve implemented a comprehensive package of domestic counter-terrorism measures, and we are progressing the outcomes of Australia’s regional Countering Violent Extremism Summit held last June.
We are taking steps to disrupt the flow of foreign fighters from Australia and the funds that finance the activities of Daesh.
However, my focus today is the coalition military effort.
To address this threat and undermine Daesh’s influence, we must defeat the group at its source.
The coalition is working to deny Daesh safe haven and we are building the capacity of others to take up the fight.
The campaign is making progress.
A year ago, Baghdad was under threat as Daesh advanced unimpeded across Iraq.
Kobane in Syria was close to falling.
Today, thanks to Iraqi and other forces, with coalition support, Daesh’s momentum has been blunted.
It has been forced to switch tactics.
It can no longer openly mass forces.
Its freedom of movement and ability to resupply and reinforce fighters has been constrained.
Critically, coalition efforts to enable the Iraqi Security Forces to re-take territory and re-establish Iraq’s borders are making headway.
Australia is playing its part in supporting Iraq reclaim its sovereignty and territorial integrity and protect its people.
We’re providing one of around a dozen “Advise and Assist” teams helping Iraqi Security Forces’ front-line operations through specialist support on strategy, targeting, air coordination and intelligence.
We’re also one of the largest contributors to the Building Partner Capacity training mission, the BPC, which is helping rebuild the divisions, brigades and battalions of the Iraqi Army.
In May, we commenced a joint Australia/New Zealand Building Partner Capacity mission at Taji.
This is a true coalition effort, where we work alongside trainers from the US and Spain and with a UK counter-IED team.
Overall, across seven BPC sites, 14,000 Iraqi personnel have completed courses.
BPC-trained units are now beginning to deploy to the front line.
Coalition training is helping to bolster operational confidence.
The coalition is also helping ensure partners are better equipped, providing over $300 million in military equipment and supplies to date.
We expect these efforts will translate to operational success.
King Abdullah of Jordan spoke about the vital support provided by the air campaign.
Australia has recently extended our airstrikes against Daesh targets from Iraq into Syria pursuant to article 51 and the legal principle of the collective self defence of Iraq.
Our campaign must continue to evolve and our strategy adapt as the situation changes.
Frank discussions with the Iraqi Government are essential to ensure our support continues to meet Iraq’s needs.
Ultimately, defeating Daesh requires political solutions.
To Prime Minister al-Abadi, I reiterate Australia’s support and encourage you to follow through with concrete measures to advance reconciliation and inclusive governance.
These are vital to eroding Daesh’s support base and appeal. Without them, military efforts won’t succeed.
We highlight the importance of National Guard legislation, which will send a vital signal to Iraq’s Sunni communities but also to coalition members who have invested so heavily in Iraq.
We also need a political solution in Syria if there is to be an end to the conflict.
No transition option should be rejected at this stage.
Australia strongly supports UN envoy de Mistura’s efforts towards this end.
The coalition remains unified and committed, as we have reaffirmed today.
Australia will continue our strong contribution to this shared challenge.
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