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Pressure for Australian ground troops in Syria

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Support is building inside the Turnbull government to commit combat troops to the fight against Islamic State in the Middle East.

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Former prime minister Tony Abbott says Australia should be prepared to send special forces soldiers into Syria and Iraq to help destroy IS militants.

Another Liberal backbencher Michael Sukkar has called on Australia and other western nations to accept the “grim duty” to defeat IS and commit substantial forces to provide safe havens in Syria.

The government has not ruled out an expansion of Australia’s role in the conflict which is now limited to airstrikes against IS targets in Syria and Iraq and the training of Iraqi troops.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, speaking from the APEC conference in Manila, said any request for more boots on the ground would be considered.

“We would always consider a request in a measured and collaborative way, working with our allies,” she told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

Bishop rejected arguments that Australia should withdraw its presence in the Middle East and focus on border protection.

“You have to deal with terrorism at its source,” she told Sky News.

Abbott says Australia should be ready to contribute more.

“Islamic State cannot be contained, it has to be destroyed,” he wrote in The Australian.

Sukkar described as “feeble” the West’s efforts to destroy Islamic State.

“Unless we develop that resolve, manifested in a commitment to put our forces in harm’s way but with all necessary support to do their jobs, we cannot prevail in this struggle,” he wrote in the Herald Sun.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said Australia wasn’t immediately considering extending its military contribution.

“We already make the second largest contribution of any participant in the fight,” she told ABC radio.

In more than two months since Australia launched its first armed combat mission over Syria there have been nine air missions, with just two bombs dropped.

– AAP

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