Australia will pull its strike aircraft out of the Middle East following the Iraqi Government’s declaration this month it had pushed Islamic State forces out of the country.
Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed this morning the RAAF’s six Super Hornet aircraft would come home by the end of January, saying the end of the ground war in Iraq meant their presence was no longer necessary.
The more than 300 Australian soldiers helping train Iraqi soldiers, 80 members of the special forces group, and refuelling aircraft will remain in the region to assist Iraq’s defence forces and their allies.
But Ms Payne said the Super Hornets would be returning to Australia shortly.
The Defence Minister again paid tribute to the Iraqi troops that cleared the last Islamic State strongholds earlier this month, and expressed her sympathies to the families of the many Iraqi civilians and defence force personnel who died in the three-year conflict.
The RAAF has flown more than 4100 sorties since October 2014, but only 654 missions in the first 10 months of the year.
Ms Payne said the rest of the world must remain vigilant and committed to helping Iraq build its own internal security, given the expectation that Islamic State forces would remain active and return to an insurgent campaign in the war-torn country.
There are currently about 780 ADF personnel in Iraq – including the training cohort, and special forces.