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Australian PM Morrison visits Australian troops in Iraq

Morrison in Iraq
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made a pre-Christmas visit to hundreds of Australian troops deployed in the Middle East, the West Australian reported on Thursday.

Morrison traveled to Iraq yesterday to meet special forces soldiers and other Australian Defence Force personnel training the Iraqi Army to combat ISIS.

“I understand it’s a sacrifice - I understand it’s a big thing to be away from your family at this time of year - and that’s why I’ve decided to come just to say thank you from one Australian to another,” he told troops at the Taji Military Complex north of a Baghdad.

It was the Liberal prime minister’s first visit to the Middle East after taking on the top job in August.

A planned visit to Afghanistan was canceled due to operational security reasons, on advice from the Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

As he broke bread with hundreds of soldiers across Iraq from before dawn until well after dark, Morrison repeatedly stressed he would honor their contributions long after their active service.

He acknowledged that for many troops it would be the first Christmas away from their families and friends. Others had endured the tyranny of distance many times before.

“On behalf of my family, to you and your families, I want to say thank you very much for your service,” Morrison said.

“But I also want to thank you as a prime minister, as the leader of the government, as a member of the Australian Parliament, on behalf of our entire nation.”

Tens of thousands of Australian soldiers have served in the region since 2001.

There are now about 800 Australian soldiers deployed in Iraq and Australia’s main logistical hub in the Middle East.

Roughly 300 of these troops are involved in Task Force Taji.

The rotating group has trained almost 40,000 Iraqi soldiers since its mission began in 2015.

Its focus has gradually shifted from delivering frontline training to mentoring Iraqi security forces.

Under their guidance, Iraqi supervisors now teach their own troops infantry skills such as cordoning, searching, ambushing and marksmanship.