Kevin Andrews suggests he may have acted differently on military expansion in Middle East

Kevin Andrews suggests he may have acted differently on military expansion in Middle East

Kevin Andrews suggests he may have acted differently on military expansion in Middle East

Updated 14 January 2016, 9:15 AEDT

Kevin Andrews suggests he may have acted differently to Defence Minister Marise Payne if still in the position to decide whether Australia should expand its military contribution in the Middle East.

Former defence minister Kevin Andrews has suggested he would have acted differently if still in the position to decide whether Australia should expand its military contribution in the Middle East.

Late last year, United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter approached the more than 40 countries involved in targeting Islamic State (IS or ISIL) militants in Iraq and Syria, requesting they consider their contributions.

No express call for sending ground troops into the region was made.

At the time, the Turnbull Government would not commit to the request, but noted Australia was already making the second largest contribution to military efforts in the region.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Marise Payne announced the Government had "advised Secretary Carter that our existing contributions will continue".

Mr Andrews has advocated for ground troops to be sent into the campaign.

He has not gone so far as to criticise Senator Payne, but hinted he may have decided differently.

"[Senator Payne] has information before her that I obviously don't in making the decision," Mr Andrews said.

"If the Americans have made a reasonable request of us, then we should be giving it the most favourable consideration.

"The question always remains, and that is what is the most efficient and effective way in which those forces can be used.

"It's quite clear from the advice I received, and I was aware of what the American military personnel and defence leaders were suggesting, and that was for months they were suggesting that we needed forces on the ground in order to defeat ISIL."

Australia has more than 400 personnel deployed to the region, involved in airstrikes and training.

Analysts have described the announcement as the right decision, in the face of a "military stalemate" in the region.

"I think this has been the direction that Malcolm Turnbull has been taking [to] our policy approach in the Middle East," said Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

"Absent a clearly articulated change of strategy from the United States, I don't see why it would be necessary for Australia to increase our current contribution.

"We know that we're only having frankly limited success, and therefore I think we're perfectly within our ground to say at this point, as the second largest contributor already, we're probably doing enough."

IS campaign needs 'new approach'

Mr Jennings said the campaign against IS needed a new approach, one which could only be designed by the US.

"When that point comes, I think it would be appropriate for Australia to do more because there's certainly things that we could do that would contribute to that," Mr Jennings said.

"In the current environment where we're really sort of seeking out something of a stalemate, with a few marginal gains in Iraq, I don't really think there's a case that Australia should be asked by the US to do much more.

"Unless, and until we see the Americans doing a significant additional extra effort, I wouldn't be inclined to say extra forces from Australia should be committed at this stage."

The Greens have also welcomed the announcement.

"It would be the first time in my recollection that an Australian government has actually knocked back such a request from the US," Deputy Leader Scott Ludlam said.

"So if its a sign that we're finally considering a faint glimmer of independent foreign policy, then it's welcome news indeed."

But Senator Ludlam said the issue of military personnel being sent to overseas hotspots needed more scrutiny.

"We believe at the time that the Iraq deployment and the Syria deployment, whatever your views, pro or against, that that should've been subjected to a debate in Parliament," Senator Ludlam said.

"The way that it was in the British Parliament, the way it was indeed or may shortly be engaged with in the United States Congress."