Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Friday during a nationally televised news conference that Australia will deploy the Royal Australian Air Force and special forces to Iraq to assist the fight against Islamic State militants.
The decision from Australia’s Cabinet to take a direct role combating Islamic State militants in Iraq follows a move Australian Prime Minister Abbott took on Wednesday to send Australian airplanes into Iraq to play a supportive role with the United States and its international coalition partners.
In mid-September Australia sent 600 troops and 10 aircraft to United Arab Emirates in preparation for the attack on Islamic State militants who have seized large territories in northern Iraq and northern Syria after committing brutal acts of violence including beheadings, crucifixions, executions, and other targeted killings of civilians.
“Today, cabinet has authorized Australian air strikes in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Government and in support of the Iraqi government,” Abbott said.
“Also, subject to final legal documentation, cabinet has authorized the deployment of Australian special forces into Iraq to advise and assist Iraqi forces” Abbott added.
According to a press release statement from the Australian Government Ministerial, “The Government will commit up to eight Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft to participate in airstrikes in Iraq.”
Australia will be acting as part of a large coalition of countries supporting Iraq in the fight against Islamic State militants while still contributing to the humanitarian relief effort.
The released statement acknowledges that Australia is reluctant to reach out to conflicts thousands of miles away but “this conflict has reached out to us.”
“At least 60 Australians are now fighting with terrorist groups in the Middle East and at least 100 Australians are supporting them at home” the press release states.
On Thursday Turkey’s Parliament in Ankara voted to authorize military force against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
The move represents a major foreign policy shift with Ankara’s position towards Islamic State as Turkey struggles to deal with the 200,000 Syrian refugees that were driven into its borders by Islamic State militants.
The Turkish Parliament voted to allow Turkish soldiers to pursue Islamic State militants while allowing foreign troops to launch operations from within Turkey.