Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said over the weekend that the seven F-16s that Denmark committed to the international coalition’s fight against the Islamic State in northern Iraq are being brought home so the jets can get needed repairs and personnel can get a break.
Jensen said that the decision to call the jets and personnel home was necessary if Denmark is to continue to be a part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, the terror group known alternately as Isis or ISIL.
“The government has decided that our fighter jet contribution should be brought home for a period in order to be repaired and for pilots and other personnel to be restored to health in preparation for being sent out again,” he told broadcaster DR.
“We intend to send our F-16s [back] out because ISIL needs fought and Denmark should carry its share of the load,” Jensen added.
Four Danish F-16s have been bombing Isis targets in northern Iraq since October. The other three jets are there in a reserve capacity. According to the Defence Ministry, the Danish jets have flown 476 missions and dropped 425 bombs. The Danish F-16s have also participated in intelligence missions.
The Danish parliament voted 94-9 in October 2014 to approve the military mission. Despite the new parliamentary make-up that followed the June 18th election, Denmark is expected to vote to renew the military mission.
If the mission is extended, Danish jets would like return to Iraq no later than summer 2016. Jensen said that while the jets are grounded, Denmark will look at other ways to contribute to the fight against Isis.
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“We are ready to deliver what Denmark can contribute and there are several options. But I cannot imagine that we will have boots on the ground,” Jensen told DR.
Accompanying the seven F-16s are around 90 military personnel. On top of that, Denmark also has 120 military trainers working with Iraqi troops as part of a US-led mission to get the Iraqis to “go on the offence” against Isis.
In July, the jet mechanics stationed in Iraq wrote to Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and encouraged him to give the Danish jets and personnel a break due to stress and needed repairs.