Australia has recently joined the U.S. and international effort in battling the Islamic State (IS) militants by transporting arms and munitions to Kurdish forces in Iraq, who are fighting the extremists in the north of the country. These deliveries have taken place in addition to Australia’s humanitarian air drops which are supplying communities with vital supplies who are being threatened by the advance of IS militants.

Australia has committed two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft as well as an undisclosed number of special forces soldiers who, at this stage, will most likely provide either a QRF capability or fly on board the RAAF transport planes in the event of an emergency landing. Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, has increased his rhetoric against IS in recent days, labeling the group as nothing more than a “death cult” and comparing them to Nazis and communists. Mr. Abbott has also justified the use of “extreme force” in dealing with the IS threat, which has some questioning the real motives behind the deployment of Australia’s most elite operators to the region.

Royal Australian Air Force C-17

Despite the Australian Government insisting it has no intention to commit combat troops to Iraq, there are a number of important factors at play here which may see this decision change. Per capita, Australia is now one of the largest sources of foreign fighters to the Syrian conflict. Australia’s national security service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), has assessed that there are in excess of 150 Australian citizens who have left our shores and joined the ranks of IS.