Australia to join US in arming Kurds in Iraq to help fight against ISIS

A file picture taken on August 8, 2014, shows Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters taking position on the front line in Khazer, near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
A file picture taken on August 8, 2014, shows Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters taking position on the front line in Khazer, near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. -- PHOTO: AFP 

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia said on Sunday that it would help the United States in an international effort to transport weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Iraq.

"The United States government has requested that Australia help to transport stores of military equipment, including arms and munitions, as part of a multi-nation effort," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement. "Royal Australian Air Force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster aircraft will join aircraft from other nations including Canada, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and the United States to conduct this important task."

Albania, Croatia and Denmark have also committed to providing Kurdish forces with arms and equipment, the US said on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott said there was a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Iraq and Australia was working with other countries to alleviate it and "address the security threat posed by ISIS". The decision followed Australia's involvement in airdrops earlier in August to refugees in northern Iraq to deliver humanitarian assistance.

The Iraqi government is struggling to retake large parts of the country after a lightning militant offensive led by the ISIS seized its second city Mosul in June and swept through the country's Sunni heartland, as security forces fled.

The US military said Saturday it had launched fresh attacks against IS forces in Iraq, with fighter aircraft and drones used to carry out strikes near the Mosul dam.