Netherlands recalls all F-16s from Syria mission

Dutch Air Force F-16 in the Middle East
A Dutch F-16 on the ground in the Middle East. September Sgt1 Eva Klijn / Defensie

Wednesday marks the final day of the Dutch F-16 fighter jet missions targeting IS. The Netherlands announced the decision on Monday, saying the six F-16s and two spare units need to be "available for various rapidly deployable units and NATO."

The announcement was made on New Year's Eve, about 12 days after U.S. President Donald Trump said America would quickly withdraw all forces from Syria. The decision led to the resignation of his Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, and was widely criticized by politicians of both parties. Trump later set a four-month timetable for withdrawing forces.

Trump declared U.S. victory in Syria, and said "We've won against ISIS."

Netherlands Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten contradicted that statement, saying the fight against IS has not concluded. She added that "the current stability in Iraq is still very fragile."

Dutch F-16s flew 3,000 missions over Iraq and East Syria in the last year, using 2,100 weapons. They targeted IS targets, including munitions storage, logistics sites, and vehicles.

Most of the 150 Dutch military personnel supporting the F-16 missions over Iraq and East Syria will return to the Netherlands by the end of the week.

The Netherlands will keep a presence on the ground in Iraq. Some of these troops are training Iraqi forces.