Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Australian troops in Iraq will fire back if they are targeted by Islamic State (IS) terrorists, but he insists the Government has no "intention" of sending troops into combat.
The top military officer in the United States cast doubt on a similar commitment from president Barack Obama, by saying US troops may need to accompany Iraqi soldiers on the ground.
Australia is sending 10 aircraft - eight of them fighter jets - along with 400 military support staff and 200 special forces to the United Arab Emirates to be on standby for any action in Iraq.
Mr Abbott will interrupt his week-long stay in remote Arnhem Land tomorrow to farewell Air Force crew from Amberley air base in Brisbane.
He has repeatedly said the Government has "no intention" of putting combat troops on the ground in Iraq, but he has not ruled out the possibility.
And he has warned they may be forced into using their weapons.
"Our troops will certainly be armed and if they're fired upon they'll be entitled to respond, but the whole point of military advisers is to have them with the headquarters of the units that you are working with," he said.
Mr Abbott has stressed that special forces soldiers will be planning operations and guiding local forces from unit headquarters.
"There is no intention for Australia to conduct independent combat operations inside Iraq," he said.
"There is no intention that Australia will have combat forces on the ground.
"We are making available special forces for the purposes of being military advisers to Iraqi and Peshmerga units and military advisers do not themselves normally engage in actual combat."
Iraq's Ambassador to Australia, Mouayed Saleh, said there was no need for foreign troops to join ground operations in his country - yet.
"We are in a major campaign fighting ISIS terrorists in Iraq," he said.
"As we see it today, there is no need for foreign troops to be on the ground.
"We need military advisers, we need support with air strikes.
"Down the road it's going to be assessed and if we need different things then we'll reconsider that."