- Australia is to pull its last six Super Hornets fighter jets out of the Middle East
- Wedgetail surveillance aircraft, special forces and advisers will remain in Iraq
- Defence Minister Marise Payne said the move follows victories against ISIS
Australia is withdrawing its air strike operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The country’s six Super Hornets will soon be brought home from the Middle East, marking a major reduction in its three-year commitment against ISIS.
Defence Minister Marise Payne said the decision to withdraw the fighter jets followed discussions with the Iraqi government and other allies.
A Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet flies over southern Iraq in September
A Super Hornet air combat officer checks armaments on his aircraft in the Middle East in 2014
An F/A-18F Super Hornet at the US-led coalition’s main air operating base in the Middle East
‘I want to particularly acknowledge the phenomenal efforts of the Hornet and Super Hornet pilots and support crew over the last three years,’ Ms Payne told reporters at RAAF Base Glenbrook on Friday.
The minister, who visited the team in the Middle East twice, praised their work in extremely tough and long flying conditions.
Despite the Hornet air personnel returning home towards the end of January, Senator Payne insisted it was not the end of Australia’s contribution in Iraq.
The Wedgetail surveillance and refueling aircraft would continue to support operations against ISIS – or Daesh – as well as the 80-strong Special Operations Task Group.
Australian soldiers supervise Iraqi military personnel during marksmanship training in Iraq
Smoke rises after an air strike on Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Sryia, in August this year
Australia’s Wedgetail surveillance aircraft will remain in the Middle East fighting Islamic State
‘They will continue to support the Iraqi security forces and the counter-terrorism services in their work to ensure that Daesh is precluded from taking any further hold,’ Ms Payne said.
Earlier this month Iraq’s prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the terrorist group.
Labor’s former defence spokesman Stephen Conroy described the announcement as great news.
‘I remember being in the room in the briefings when ISIS first starting rolling through all those towns in Iraq and there was enormous pessimism that Iraq would never come together,’ Mr Conroy told Sky News.
‘The troops over there have done a fantastic job and this is a real tribute to their professionalism.’
An Australian soldier conducts protection duties while on active service in Iraq in June 2016