CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday he hopes that legal hurdles can be cleared quickly so that Australian special forces troops can begin their assistance role in Iraq.
Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet jet fighters have flown their first missions over Iraq since Cabinet ministers approved their combat deployment on Friday last week. The jets have yet to find an Islamic State group target to fire at.
Cabinet members also approved the deployment of a 200-strong ground force, including special forces, to "advise and assist Iraqi security forces" inside Iraq, subject to the Iraqi government providing legal guarantees.
Abbott said on Tuesday he would not give a time frame on when those guarantees might be provided.
"Our forces are ready to go. We are finalizing the legal documentation," Abbott told reporters.
"I hope that can be done very quickly because it is an absolutely critical mission upon which our forces will be embarked to advise and assist the Iraqi armed forces as they regroup ... and hopefully are able to retake control of their country," he added.
Abbott did not elaborate on what details had yet to be resolved.
"We've written to the Iraqis. The Iraqis have written back to us and we now need to consider their response," Abbott said.
Abbott has restricted combat operations to Iraq and has ruled out Australian troops fighting on the ground.
Australia is among dozens of countries from Europe and the Middle East and including Canada that have joined the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Contributions vary and include military assistance and humanitarian aid as well as carrying out air strikes.