December 22, 2017 / 5:02 AM / 3 months ago

Australia to end air strikes in Iraq and Syria, bring Super Hornets home

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia will end air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and bring its six Super Hornet planes home after three years as part of the U.S.-led coalition in the Middle East, Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Friday.

She told a media conference the decision was made following the Iraqi declaration of victory over Islamic State.

“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.

“It has been long. It has been arduous. It has been brutal. All of our personnel made an extraordinary contribution.”

Australia has been in the Middle East as part of the U.S.-led effort against Islamic State since 2014.

Payne said other Australian operations in the region would continue, with 80 personnel who are part of the Special Operations Task Group in Iraq, including Australian special forces, continuing their deployment.

Australian soldiers have also been training Iraqi troops at the Taji military base outside Baghdad.

Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Eric Meijer

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