Australia to end air strikes against IS in Iraq
Australia is ending its involvement in air strikes on Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, the country's military said on Friday, APA reports quoting Xinhua.
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) F/A-18F Super Hornets would return to Australia after an "arduous and brutal" campaign against the terrorist group.
The announcement came after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in December declared victory over the IS.
Payne said Australia's Operation Okra has made a significant contribution in the fight against IS.
"Given the success that has been achieved on the battlefield by the Iraqi security forces, Australia's contribution is now at a transition point," she told reporters on Friday.
"After more than three years of air operations, the number of coalition air strike commissions has steadily dropped since the last major population center was captured in October.
"Following discussions with Iraq and members of the international coalition, the Australian government has determined we will bring home our six Super Hornet strike aircraft from the Middle East."
More than 800 Australian military personnel were involved in Operation Okra, mostly in Iraq.
"We are there at the invitation of the government of Iraq," Payne said.
"There's no doubt that our operations have made a difference to the ability of the Iraqi security forces' campaign to defeat Daesh (IS) and to ensure that the extremists of this organization are prevented from spreading their toxic ideology further across the globe."
Military operations in the region will now shift focus to holding territory that has been retaken from IS with Australian surveillance aircraft and 380 Australian military personnel continuing to provide support to that end.
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