Australian Special Forces soldiers could soon be deployed to the Southern Philippines to help local forces fight Islamic State (IS) militants in the country’s south.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop revealed she made the offer of assistance to President Rodrigo Duterte during a visit to Manila this month.
”Obviously we would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training,” Ms Bishop told reporters in Canberra.
”The [Philippines] armed forces are in the process of engaging in a pretty brutal fight with ISIS.
”We’ve offered to assist in any way that might add to the likelihood of defeating this scourge in the southern Philippines — it’s in our region.”
Ms Bishop stressed Australia had not offered to send combat troops to the besieged region where IS is trying to establish its South-East Asian headquarters.
”I went through with the President in some detail the support we have given in Iraq, that does not include troops on the ground,” she said.
”I know the United States, likewise, made offers. I know Malaysia and Indonesia are prepared to support Singapore and are prepared to support the Philippines should they request that support.”
Royal Australian Air Force spy planes are already operating in the area, providing intelligence to the Philippines military.
Australian intelligence and security agencies are growing increasingly alarmed at the rise of IS-inspired fighters around the war-torn city of Marawi.
In June, the commanding general of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific told the ABC he expected Australian forces would soon join American personnel fighting Islamic extremists in South-East Asia.
”Both of us have a long history of being an expeditionary force when needed, so we begin from a common point I think and we’ve operated alongside for 100 years,” Lieutenant-General David Berger said.