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Australia to End Air Strikes in Iraq and Syria

Australia to End Air Strikes in Iraq and Syria

Friday, 22 December, 2017 - 09:45
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne. AFP file photo

Australian warplanes will end their air strikes against ISIS terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, Defense Minister Marise Payne announced Friday, with the country's six hornet jets heading home after a three-year mission.

The decision follows ISIS losing its two main hubs, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Payne said Canberra had decided to scale back its mission after consultations with coalition allies following more than 2,700 sorties.

"The battlefield success against ISIS means our own Operation OKRA has now reached a natural transition point and our strike aircraft will begin returning home early in the New Year," she told a media conference.

"Since October 2014, our Hornet pilots and support personnel have made a significant contribution in support of the Iraqi Security Forces and I commend all the personnel who have contributed over this period for their dedication, skill and professionalism."

Based in the Middle East, Australia's Air Task Group consists of six F/A-18 Hornets, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker and Transport plane.

While the hornets are returning, the Wedgetail and the refueling plane will continue to support coalition operations and around 380 personnel will stay to train Iraqi forces.

The United States first sent warplanes in August 2014 to carry out strikes against ISIS. A coalition was formed soon after with the support of around 60 nations, although only a handful such as Australia, Britain and France have played a significant military role.

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