Australia has outlined an increased military commitment to Iraq as part of the international effort to destroy the Islamic State. Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot has stated that Australia’s mission has a “specific and clear objective” to fight Islamic State militants in an effort to drive them from Iraq. Mr. Abbott announced he will be sending 600 Australian personnel to the Middle East and that 200 of these troops will be sent to the United Arab Emirates within days.
The bulk of this initial 200 will undoubtedly be special forces soldiers and support staff who, at this stage, are being deployed as military advisors to the Peshmerga or the Iraqi armed forces. The follow-on force would consist of approximately 400 Air Force personnel, eight Super Hornet aircraft, an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, and an aerial refueling aircraft.
Mr. Abbott is still maintaining that Australia is “not deploying combat troops,” but rather “contributing to international efforts to prevent the humanitarian crisis from deepening.” The mission of our SOF has changed within a matter of weeks, however, with the initial mobilisation taking place under the pretense of protecting Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and crews, to now include the role of military advisors. Mr. Abbott has also been quoted as saying the Government would make “final judgment” about combat operations within a week or so.
The incremental steps that the Australian Government is making are all pointing to the conclusion that our SOF will eventually be involved in combat operations against the Islamic State. Both the 2nd Commando Regiment and the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) have the most operationally experienced soldiers within the entire Australian Defence Force, and if we are in a position to strategically target the Islamic State with some of the most capable and lethal operators in the world then there should be no question about it.
The Australian Government’s 12 year commitment to Afghanistan has seen operators from both units deploy multiple times to the region as part of Australia’s Special Operations Task Group (SOTG). Australia’s Special Operations Command is both strategically and tactically well adept at fighting non-state actors as part of a wider counterinsurgency, and the battle against the Islamic State will justifiably see our collective experience and unforgiving tenacity unleashed on no more of a deserving enemy.