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We'll assess any more troops request: PM

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/02/2017 Lisa Martin

As the Trump administration prepares a new strategy for the Middle East fight against Islamic State, Malcolm Turnbull insists Australia will consider any US request for more troops on its merits.

Australia already has 780 defence personnel deployed in the region carrying out air strikes and special operations, and with New Zealand troops training Iraqi soldiers and police.

The prime minister, in the NZ resort centre of Queenstown on Friday for trans-Tasman talks, said Australia was making the largest non-US contribution to the coalition force.

"We will assess all requests on their merits, as we always do," Mr Turnbull told reporters.

Defence Minister Marise Payne was in Europe on Thursday discussing progress with her NATO counterparts.

She was the first Australian minister to talk in person with a US counterpart from the Trump administration when she spoke with Defence Secretary James Mattis.

A new US strategy to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria, being developed by the Pentagon on the instructions of President Donald Trump, is expected to be finalised in the next two weeks.

Mr Mattis did not make any requests of allies related to the new plan during the meeting, Senator Payne said.

Efforts to take back the Iraqi city Mosul had been a "solid slog" and when that succeeded, the focus would shift to a stabilisation phase.

"Ahead of us we also have to address what will happen in Raqqa (Syria)," Senator Payne told reporters in Brussels.

Asked about the prospects of boots on the ground in Syria, she said: "It's part of the broad conjecture."

A spokeswoman for the US defence secretary said ministers would meet later in the year to "consider additional adjustments based on the changing environment and other lessons learned".

Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the prospect of committing ground troops in Syria laid bare the need to renegotiate the US alliance.

"The man (Donald Trump) is a lunatic, he is an A grade lunatic," Senator Di Natale said.

"We can't continue to do what we've done historically, which is be the only country that has followed the US into every war since WWII."

Australia did not want to be dragged into another conflict, with Donald Trump "goading" China over the South China Sea and looking at escalating ground troops in Syria.

"The alliance as it now stands commits us to doing that."

Meanwhile, close to 2000 police from Iraq's Ninewah province graduated from the Taji military complex this week.

"This graduation is an important event as these Ninewah policemen will help ensure that we not only win the current fight but, more importantly, we win the subsequent peace," said Major-General John Frewen, commander of Australian forces in the Middle East.

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