BAGHDAD,— Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered Iraq an extra $110 million in humanitarian assistance during an unannounced visit to Australian troops ahead of Anzac Day commemorations.
Mr Turnbull said Islamic State had lost 60 per cent of territory once held in Iraq, with more than two million people liberated from its grasp in 2016, and the funding would help combat the terrorist group.
“As the coalition military effort forces ISIS out of major population centres, it is important to increase humanitarian and stabilisation assistance to help the Iraqi government lock in security gains,” he and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The funding includes an immediate injection of $10 million for urgent needs arising from an operation to liberate Mosul, and a three-year $100 million assistance package to be included in the upcoming budget.
This package will address humanitarian needs including food, medical assistance and clean water.
“It will focus on protecting the most vulnerable, with a particular emphasis on women and girls,” Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop said.
The funding brings Australia’s humanitarian assistance to Iraq and Syria to more than $530 million since 2014.
Earlier on Anzac Day, the prime minister’s office confirmed his visit to the Middle East.
“The Prime Minister meeting and thanking Australian Defence Force mentors and force protection at Qargha, Afghanistan,” the official account of his office tweeted early on Tuesday morning.
Australia has 270 defence personnel deployed mostly in the capital Kabul, where they provide support and security along with some mentoring recruits at the Afghan National Military Academy.
Since 2002, 42 Australian troops have been killed in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.
During his visit on Sunday and Monday, Mr Turnbull paid tribute to their sacrifice as well as holding a commemoration ahead of Anzac Day.
He also took the opportunity to assess the progress of the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, by meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi in Baghdad and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.
He also held a meeting with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, reiterating Australia’s commitment to defeating terrorism.
Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AAP
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