Obama touts Australia’s contribution to Daesh fight

Obama touts Australia’s contribution to Daesh fight

Washington: President Barack Obama today thanked Australia for its “steadfast” alliance and key contributions in the fight against Islamic State group, as he welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the White House for the new leader’s first visit to Washington since taking office in September.

Opening a meeting in the Oval Office, Obama said the leaders planned to discuss the anti-Islamic State operation, as well as broader counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The president noted Australia is a key contributor to the coalition, with the second-largest force of ground troops in Iraq behind the United States.

“They have been a consistent and extraordinarily effective member of the coalition,” Obama said.

Australia has said it is among 40 countries being pressed by the US to boost their military contributions in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State after the deadly terrorist attack in Paris in November. But Australia told the US that its commitment would remain largely unchanged.

Australia has six jet fighters based in Dubai flying missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. It also has soldiers in non-combat roles in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Turnbull said his visit had included productive meetings with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. He said he looked forward to working more closely with US intelligence officials on counterterrorism efforts aimed at curbing the Islamic State’s recruitment and communications online.