Australian special forces have been cleared to start work on the ground in Iraq, helping local troops as they face the grinding task of driving Islamic State fighters out of their stronghold towns and cities.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to announce on Tuesday that the final legal hurdles with the Iraqi government have been cleared, meaning the Australian commandos can begin their “advise and assist” work with the Iraqis.

The paperwork from Baghdad came as RAAF Super Hornet fighters returned safely to the United Arab Emirates from their first combat mission in Iraq, providing air cover for local troops in the country’s north, though they did not launch weapons. […]