News National Australian troops heading to Philippines to provide training in the fight against Islamist militants and ISIS veterans
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Australian troops heading to Philippines to provide training in the fight against Islamist militants and ISIS veterans

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Australian troops are set to train Philippines forces in their fight against militant groups.
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Australia will send small teams of soldiers to the Philippines to help train local forces fighting militants in the country’s south.

Defence Minister Marise Payne made the announcement after meeting Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana in Manila.

The Philippines Army has been waging a fierce battle against Islamists who are trying to establish a base in the city of Marawi.

Senator Payne said Australia was determined to ensure Islamic State did not secure a permanent foothold in South-East Asia.

“We are very committed to supporting the Philippines in its efforts to defend itself against terrorist threats,” she said.

“Not only because we support our friends but because it’s important for Australia as well. This is a threat to the region we all need to work together to defeat.”

The Australian troops will be confined to Philippines military bases and will not fight alongside local soldiers.

Senator Payne said they would advise Philippines troops and provide them with “specialising training”.

Both countries will now hold detailed discussions to hammer out their precise role, and decide exactly how many soldiers will be sent to the South-East Asian nation.

Australian intelligence and security agencies have been growing increasingly alarmed at the rise of IS-inspired fighters in and around Marawi.

Senator Payne said militants returning from battlefields in the Middle East posed a serious threat to countries across South-East Asia, including the Philippines.

“They are battle-hardened. They are well-trained. They are very determined,” she said.

“We need to ensure that, as participants in this part of the world, our respective forces are as well-trained, as well-engaged together as they can be, to address that challenge.”

Mr Lorenzana said there was no need for Australian troops to enter the battle, because the Philippines already had sufficient troops fighting on the ground.

“It would not look good if we would be needing troops to fight the war here. We are happy with the assistance we’re getting from Australia,” he said.

Australia has sent two Orion spy planes to Marawi to help provide surveillance support to soldiers fighting militants in and around the city.

A very small number of Australian troops already provide training to local forces as well.

But the announcement means more Australian soldiers will now head to the Philippines — and Australia’s support will be given a higher profile.