Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced that his country will be sending troops to the Middle East as part of an international effort to combat Islamic State, or ISIS militants.
Abbot told reporters in the Australian city of Darwin that the force will include multiple military aircraft, including up to eight super hornets, and special forces soldiers. He added that the decision to deploy the force had been taken following a request from the U.S. in the last 24 hours. A specific timetable for the deployment was not given.
Abbott said that the Australian government had not yet made the decision to commit troops to combat action in a strike against ISIS, but that forces would be deployed to the region in preparation for such action, according to a report from ABC News Australia.
Australia's SBS News reported that Abbott said that deployment did not mean Australia was at war, but rather that the country was part of an international coalition, which is aligning to confront Islamic State militants.
"Australia is prepared to engage in international operations to disrupt and degrade ISIL [another acronym for the Islamic State] because of the threat that this murderous death cult poses not just to the people of Iraq, not just to the people of the Middle East, but to the whole world including to Australia."
In a tweet, the network quoted Abbott as saying “should this extend into combat operations, it could go on for some time.”
The announcement comes just hours after ISIS released a video which appeared to show the beheading of British hostage David Haines. Asked for his reaction to the video, Abbott said: “Shock, horror, outrage, fury. And a steely resolve to do anything we can.”
Australian troops participated in the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, providing substantial combat force contingents in both conflicts.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is currently on a tour of the Middle East, attempting to shore up an international coalition to confront ISIS, who have taken control of huge swathes of Iraq and Syria.