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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.

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.

Finally, we should also be alert to the fact that the global terrorist threat posed by Islamic State and like-minded Islamist groups will not disappear once their overt hold on territory has been ended.

There is likely to be a longer-term requirement for ADF elements to remain in the region to assist law enforcement and other agencies to track those Australian who haven’t yet been killed or arrested.

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.

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.

There are any number of commentators who will argue that Australian forces have been deployed in the Middle East long enough and should be withdrawn once the counter-Islamic State operations are over.

The reality is that we can never foretell the future.

As a middle power with global interests, a commitment to protecting our own nationals and the United States alliance, and to confronting the terrorist threat, we should acknowledge that those needs dictate an ongoing military presence in the Middle East.Military operations conducted by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in that part of the world never featured as part of the strategic debate, even if we had small groups deployed in the Sinai and with the United Nations there at the time.[^1] Today, of course, it seems that we can’t keep out of the region.