SYDNEY – Australia will end its air strike operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Australian defense minister announced Friday.
The decision will mean the withdrawal of six Super Hornet fighter planes and their personnel at the end of January, after three years of operations in the Middle East.
“Given the success that has been achieved on the battlefield by the Iraqi security forces, Australia’s contribution is now at a transition point,” the Australian defense minister Marise Payne said.
Australia will maintain its Wedgetail surveillance aircraft and air tankers in Iraq, along with 80 special operations military personnel.
“They will continue to support the Iraqi security forces and the counter-terrorism services in their work to ensure that Daesh (IS) is precluded from taking any further hold,” Payne told reporters at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Glenbrook, near Sydney.
Australia has 780 troops deployed in Iraq as part of the international coalition airstrike operations against IS, including 300 in air missions and 80 special forces, as well as Super Hornet fighters, Wedgetail and KC-30A tanker aircraft, but did not engage in ground warfare.