Australia's cabinet Friday authorized the deployment of special forces and military air strikes to tackle the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, a day after the Turkish government won parliamentary approval to deploy troops in Iraq and Syria.
"Today, cabinet has authorized Australian airstrikes 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 refused to put a time frame on Australia's involvement in Iraq.
"I want to stress that only Iraq can defeat ISIL, but Iraq shouldn't be alone and as far as Australia and our allies are concerned, Iraq won't be alone," he said. "I have to warn that this deployment to Iraq could be quite lengthy, certainly months rather than weeks."
"I want to reassure the Australian people that it will be as long as it needs to be, but as short as it possibly can be," the prime minister said.
Up to eight Australian Super Hornets were authorized to take part in the strikes, with six of the aircraft currently in the UAE, Australian Defense Force chief Mark Binskin said. The announcement came days after Australian military jets took part in support missions over Iraq with the U.S.-led international coalition.
Canberra had already joined the U.S. in an international effort to transport weapons to Kurdish forces fighting ISIL extremists in northern Iraq and conducted humanitarian air drops to besieged Iraqi towns.
In its Iraq operation, some 1,600 U.S. soldiers have been deployed to support Iraqi forces with equipment, training and information. Canada said last month it had sent dozens of special forces soldiers to the country to advise local personnel.
In Syria, Washington has so far relied on Arab allies for support in its air campaign against ISIL which is now in its 11th day. Recently, reports emerged from Syria that civilians were killed in the U.S.-led strikes, including women and children.
The White House responded by saying its policy requiring "near certainty" that noncombatants wouldn't be targeted does not apply to its military operation in Syria.
Al Jazeera and wire services