Australia has confirmed it will join the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes against Islamic State targets in northern Iraq.
Australia's National Security Committee approved the deployment after an official request was received from Iraq overnight.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters on October 3 that the deployment to Iraq "could be quite lengthy. Certainly, months rather than weeks."
Australian Defense Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said the airstrikes would start "over the coming days," but would not be more specific.
Analysts say the announcement was widely expected.
Australia deployed six fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates more than two weeks ago following a formal request from the United States for specific contributions to the international coalition.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his French counterpart have discussed the possibility of France taking part in air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Appearing at a Pentagon news conference alongside the French official, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Hagel said France recognized the grave threat that the Islamic State group posed to the country and to the region.
Earlier on October 2, French President Francois Hollande's office said that France -- which is conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State militants in Iraq -- would "intensify" its support for Syrian opposition forces. But no details were provided.
Turkey Approves Military Operations
In other comments, Hagel said he welcomed a decision by Turkey to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State group.
Turkey’s parliament has approved a motion on October 2 that authorizes the government to carry out military operations within neighboring Iraq and Syria.
The mandate requested by the government lasts for one year and is broad in scope.
It does not commit Turkey to sending armed troops into Syria and Iraq, but it authorized Ankara to do so if it chooses.
The move comes after months of caution by Turkey over the Islamic State militants, who are fighting Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.
Ankara has not yet indicated how it will support the U.S.-led coalition against IS militants.
But Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for a buffer zone inside Syria along the Turkish border, backed by a no-fly zone, as a safe haven for Kurdish Syrian refugees.
Washington says the U.S. envoy in charge of building the international coalition, retired U.S. General John Allen, will visit Turkey soon.
Waves Of Suicide Bombers
In related news, Iraqi medical officials say fighting between Islamic State militants and government forces in western Iraq on October 2 left nearly 60 people dead -- with militants sending waves of suicide bombers at government strongholds.
In Hit, a small government-controlled town that straddles the Euphrates River between Haditha and Ramadi on the main highway to Syria, two militant suicide bombers spearheaded an attack on a police compound.
Colonel Jabbar al-Nimrawi said police killed about 20 of militants who tried to storm the compound in the wake of the blasts. At least seven policemen and four were also killed in the battle.
Militants also attacked the headquarters of the Iraqi Army's 8th Brigade just outside Ramadi, sending waves of suicide bombers to breach the compound's fortified walls.
Army officer Awad al-Dulaimi said 13 suicide bombers died, along with eight militants killed in an ensuing firefight.
At least six soldiers were killed there.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP