Australian forces to have boots on Iraq soil in days

TONY Abbott has confirmed Australian Special Forces officers will have their boots on the ground in Iraq in "coming days", after the Cabinet decided Australia would also become directly involved in airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

Mr Abbott announced the direct military intervention of Australian military forces today, alongside Defence Minister David Johnston and Chief of the Defence Force Mark Binskin.

But, he said, despite announcing the government's intentions to launch its own air strikes against IS in Iraq, he was still waiting on formal approval from the Iraqi Government, which he expected "in the next 24 hours".

He said Australian SAS officers would join United States, United Kingdom and Canadian elite special forces on the ground in Iraq, but only an "advise and assist" mission, to help Iraqi forces "disrupt and degrade" the IS.

Mr Abbott said eight FA-18 Super Hornet aircraft had already been reserved for operations in Iraq, with six already on standby at the US-controlled operations base in the United Arab Emirates.

The Prime Minister said a detailed risk assessment had been completed of the operations, and he and CDF Binskin said Australian officers were "well-prepared".

However, neither Mr Abbott nor CDF Binskin explained exactly what Australia's response would be if one of the "risks" eventuated, saying only that the government's intentions were at this stage to help Iraqi forces, rather than be directly involved in combat operations on the ground.

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