ABU DHABI // The UAE is to be used as a base for eight military aircraft and 600 personnel from Australia as part of the international coalition in a bid to counter the ISIL terrorist threat.
Some factors Australia will be taking into consideration include force protection and security, mission planning and intelligence gathering to ensure the safety of their military advisers.
“The UAE was chosen for the base of this operation as it is the Middle East headquarters of Australia’s defence force,” said Pablo Kang, Australia’s ambassador to the UAE.
“In terms of the geography and logistics, there is a reason why we have a base here in terms of proximity, logistics and our very strong relationship with the UAE.”
Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, announced that the Australian defence force would prepare and send to the UAE up to eight Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 combat aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft and a KC-30A multi-role tanker and transport aircraft. He said a special operations task group would also be sent as military advisers who could assist Iraqi and other security forces “that are taking the fight to the ISIL terrorists”.
About 600 military personnel – 400 air and 200 military – will be involved in the operation.
“We think this is a balanced and proportionate contribution to what is not our fight, but the world’s fight,” Mr Abbott said. “There are at least 60 Australians that we know of working with terrorist groups in the Middle East and at least 100 that we know of [in Australia] and abroad that are supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East.”
He said the UAE was one of many countries, including Bahrain and Jordan, that had indicated it was prepared to contribute to military operations inside Iraq.
“We could see the air elements departing in the next week or so,” he said. “We could see the military elements departing sooner.”
Mr Kang said the prime minister had been in talks with many regional leaders, including Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who Mr Abbott said shared the Australian government’s “grave concern about the situation in Iraq”.
“This is very much a humanitarian operation in terms of the people of Iraq,” Mr Kang said. “It’s also a matter of security for us and international security. Australia has a very close military and strategic relationship with the UAE.”
He said the request for assistance had come from the Iraqi government.
“We’ve been talking closely to the Americans coordinating this coalition of countries, but it is much broader than Australia or the US,” he said.
“The prime minister has made it clear that this isn’t something that will be a short-term operation. This is obviously a threat that needs to be degraded over the longer term and that will take more than a few weeks.”
Australian personnel will be placed in US headquarters in the UAE.
“There is, within the UAE, a range of different bases and there is a range of different countries which operate out of those bases,” Mr Kang said. “So there is no final decision on where exactly yet but we are working that through.”
Australia’s Al Minhad air base in Dubai has already served to deliver weapons and humanitarian airdrops in Iraq.
“We want to deploy from places where we have a strong relationship, a history of cooperation and a very solid bilateral relationship. Logistically, it also makes sense.”
Dr Theodore Karasik, director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said the movement of these aircraft to the GCC was part of the developing nature of the air-power requirements for attacking targets in ISIL territory, with augmentations of command and control in one package.
“The Australian assets are also useful because of their inter-operational capability with other coalition partners,” Dr Karasik said.