Australia’s Defense Minister, Marise Payne, announced on December 22 that Australia will withdraw its six F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets from the Middle East, and stop its airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, according to Reuters. Payne said that the decision was taken after discussions with the US-led coalition and the Iraqi government.
“Following discussions with Iraq and with members of the international coalition, the Australian government has determined that we will bring home our six Super Hornet strike aircraft from the Middle East,” Payne told reporters at Royal Australian Air Forces base Glenbrook, according to Reuters.
However, the Australian defense minister confirmed that Australia will keep 80 service members including Australian special forces troops as part of the US-led coalition Special Operations Task Group in Iraq. Payne also stressed that Australia will continue to support Iraqi security forces and counter-terrorism units.
“They will continue to support the Iraqi Security Forces and counter-terrorism service in their work to ensure that Daesh [ISIS]is precluded from taking any further hold … If they [ISIS] can find a way to continue to cause havoc, they will,” Payne said, according to the Russian TV network RT.
Other members of the US-led coalition will likely end their missions against ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the upcoming months. One the other hand, US officials stressed on many occasions that US troops will maintain its presence in Syria after defeating ISIS for political reasons.
If the US remains alone in Syria, it will face an additional pressure from the international community as its presence in the country will be lacking any legal bases or proper support from its own allies.