Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has met with the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin to discuss the impending involvement of Australia’s Special Operations Forces in the war against the Islamic State.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has already completed its first operational sorties over Iraq. So far, these have included the use of two F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, and an aerial refuelling aircraft.

There are approximately 200 Australian SOF operators and support staff on standby in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who are now awaiting the final legal sign-off from the Iraqi government. They are expected to be involved in what Tony Abbott has referred to as an “advise and assist” capacity to support Iraqi and Peshmerga troops on the ground. Mr. Abbott also acknowledged that U.S., UK, and Canadian SOF were already operating inside Iraq, and that Australia’s Special Forces would be “operating on a much smaller scale but in an entirely comparable way to the United States Special Forces.”

“Advise” and “assist” appear to be simply semantics for what will undoubtedly be joint offensive operations. Air strikes alone will not defeat this movement and the local security forces are struggling to gain the upper hand. This leaves the coalition with no choice other than to provide the proverbial “boots on the ground” option. The 2nd Commando Regiment will make up the bulk of the force element with the Special Air Service Regiment providing a key supporting role. This construct worked exceptionally well in Afghanistan and its application will certainly have a devastating effect on the Islamic State.

Australia's Boots on the Ground

Despite the government’s earlier rhetoric and pretenses for deploying our most elite operators to the region, it was by no means a difficult prediction to see this changing from a passive quick-reaction-force role to an aggressive, war fighting one. With the counterterrorism raids which took place all over Australia last month and the attempted murder of two police officers by an Islamic State supporter, the threat to our national security could not have been made much clearer. Taking the fight to this group and its sympathisers wherever they are is both a legal and moral obligation.