Australia will begin to pull out its attack aircraft from Iraq following an announcement from their Defense Minister. Marise Payne announced that after discussions with the Iraqi government and other allies, Australia will begin to scale back its air operations due to the crushing of the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.
The country’s six super hornets will head home from the Middle East, marking the end of Australia’s airstrike operations.
Payne said the decision follows discussions with the Iraqi government and other allies.
“I want to particularly acknowledge the phenomenal efforts of the hornet and super hornet pilots and support crew over the last three years,” she told reporters at RAAF Base Glenbrook on Friday.
Despite the hornet air personnel returning home in the new year she insisted it was not the end of Australia’s contribution in Iraq.
Earlier this month Iraq’s prime minister 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,” he told Sky News.
“The troops over there have done a fantastic job and this is a real tribute to their professionalism.”
The attack aircraft pullout will not end Australia’s commitment to Iraq however. Payne said that 80-man Special Operations Task Group will continue to support Iraq’s forces and help ensure that the Islamic State or Daesh, as she called it, doesn’t try to make a comeback. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will also continue to fly surveillance and refueling aircraft over Iraq for the foreseeable future.
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