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        Middle East

        The Royal Navy (RN) has an array of ships on operations in the Middle East ranging from mine-hunters, hydrographic survey vessels and frigates in the Gulf, to the Royal Marines and naval air squadrons in Afghanistan. Why we are there: The Middle East is a politically unstable part of the world. The Royal Navy serves to preserve peace in the region, protect the oil fields of the Northern Gulf, as well as conducting hot climate training. The RN also has personnel in Afghanistan contributing to the ongoing effort against the Taliban. The Middle East remains a strategically important region for the UK. From the maritime perspective this covers some 2.5 million square miles, covering the whole of the Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and the Northern Arabian Sea running south from the Pakistani/Indian border to intersect with a line running east from the border of Kenya and Somalia, but including the Seychelles, an area larger than Europe. The UK has strong political, commercial and trading links with the region including a large expatriate community. Units of the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have been on patrol in the Gulf since October 1980, after the Iran/Iraq conflict of that year, and more recently operations have extended further south with the increase in piracy off the Somalia coast. Having warships present in the region is one of the main tools the UK has to show our commitment to this part of the world.