Denmark has significantly strengthened its military commitment to fighting the Islamic State group, following approval by the Danish national parliament to send a combined new land and air force to Syria and Iraq in the second half of 2016.
The new force will comprise an F-16 fighter squadron, 400 military personnel and at least one C130J transport support aircraft. The fighter squadron will consist of seven F-16s. Four of these will be used for day-to-day mission operations, while three will be held in reserve.
Initially, the 400-strong Danish ground-force unit will operate in Iraq, where they will be deployed to train and support front-line Iraqi forces.
"The F-16s will be used for offensive attacks as well as to monitor and gather information," Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said. C-130J transport aircraft will deploy to supply ground troops and conduct civilian and humanitarian tasks, the minister added.
The approval by the national parliament, the Folketing, had been awaited since Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen outlined his government's scaled-up campaign strategy against ISIS in March.
Taking the fight directly to ISIS currently ranks among Denmark's "highest ranking priorities," said Defence Minister Peter Christensen.
"It is the firm commitment of the Danish government to combat IS at its stronghold. This is why we plan to return our F-16 fighters for missions in both Iraq and Syria," Christensen said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.
Parliamentary backing was overwhelming for the government's force deployment plan to Iraq and Syria. Some 90 MPs from mainstream parties voted for the plan, while 19 mainly leftist party MPs opposed.
"Denmark, with this decision, is sending a statement to terror groups like the Islamic State and its offshoots. The Islamic State is a brutal and ruthless terrorist organization, and a powerful response from the outside world is needed to defeat it," Rasmussen said.
The ground-forces contingent will consist of 340 troops from infantry combat and specialized training units. The special forces unit will run to around 60.
The scaled-up deployment by Denmark comes in response to a request by the U.S.-led international coalition for military support.
Denmark will now join the international coalition's broad undertaking to conduct aerial strikes against ISIS, while also training and supporting local forces fighting ISIS militants in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
"Denmark has a need to reaffirm and strengthen its support for the international coalition's efforts. We want to assume those responsibilities," Jensen said.
The new land and air force is much larger in size and ambition than Denmark's previous contribution to the international coalition in 2014-2015.
That contribution centered on an F-16 squadron operating on a one-year mission that ended in fall 2015.
According to data from the Ministry of Defence, that six-aircraft F-16 unit flew 547 missions over northern Iraq, dropping an estimated 500 bombs against ISIS targets.
The Danish armed forces currently have some 120 specialist combat training troops stationed at the Al Asad Air Base northwest of Baghdad. They are deployed to train Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish security forces.