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Approximately 5,300 Australian citizens and 1,300 foreign nationals were evacuated from Lebanon during the conduct of Operation Ramp.In the Persian Gulf the UAE alone is host to more than 20,000 Australian expatriates, and more than 300,000 Australian tourists annually.However, the beauty of retaining our current logistic support base in the UAE is that it allows Australia an ongoing military presence to support our modest deployed forces into the medium term and provides us a footprint in a strategically relevant region that can be up-scaled rapidly to meet future training requirements and/or operational contingencies.
We should see it as part of the reality of an increasingly internationally-engaged Australia and look at our security interests there accordingly.
The combat air assets engaged in the battle against the Islamic State need a rest and will likely be able to return in the not-too-distant future as the remaining concentrations of the terrorist group are destroyed and its members dissipate and disappear among the population — or leave the area for other fields of jihad.
The training and advisory land component will also likely no longer be required in the longer-term, but subject to Baghdad’s approval there will be utility in maintaining this for a period of time after Iraqi sovereignty has been restored to ensure that the gains in capability that have been made are not lost.
The Australian Army has continued to deploy a sub-unit size group to the Butterworth airbase in Malaysia for nearly half a century.
The role played by it and the RAAF contingent also located there has obviously evolved over time, but there has been sufficient strategic rationale throughout that period for Canberra to maintain the commitment.
The reality is that we can never foretell the future.