Are We Really 'Withdrawing' from Bush's Wars? Quietly, US Constructs Even More Bases in the Mideast
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Despite recent large-scale insurgent suicide bombings that have killed scores of civilians and the fact that well over 100,000 U.S. troops are still deployed in that country, coverage of the U.S. war in Iraq has been largely replaced in the mainstream press by the (previously) "forgotten war" in Afghanistan. A major reason for this is the plan, developed at the end of the Bush years and confirmed by President Obama, to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 2010 and withdraw most of the remaining forces by December 2011.
Getting out of Iraq, however, doesn't mean getting out of the Middle East. For one thing, it's likely that a sizeable contingent of U.S. forces will remain garrisoned on several large and remotely situated U.S. bases in Iraq well past December 2011. Still others will be stationed close by -- on bases throughout the region where, with little media attention since the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, construction to harden, expand, and upgrade U.S. and allied facilities has gone on to this day.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee early this year, General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), stated: "The Arabian Peninsula commands significant U.S. attention and focus because of its importance to our interests and the potential for insecurity." He continued:
"[T]he countries of the Arabian Peninsula are key partners... CENTCOM ground, air, maritime, and special operations forces participate in numerous operations and training events, bilateral and multilateral, with our partners from the Peninsula. We help develop indigenous capabilities for counter terrorism; border, maritime, and critical infrastructure security; and deterring Iranian aggression. As a part of all this, our FMS [Foreign Military Sales] and FMF [Foreign Military Financing] programs are helping to improve the capabilities and interoperability of our partners' forces. We are also working toward an integrated air and missile defense network for the Gulf. All of these cooperative efforts are facilitated by the critical base and port facilities that Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE [United Arab Emirates], and others provide for US forces."
In fact, since 2001 the Pentagon has been pouring significant sums of money into the "critical base and port facilities" mentioned by the general -- both U.S. sites and those of its key regional partners. These are often ignored facts-on-the-ground, which signal just how enduring the U.S. military presence in the region is likely to be, no matter what happens in Iraq. Press coverage of this long-term infrastructural build-up has been remarkably minimal, given the implications for future conflicts in the oil heartlands of the planet. After all, Washington is sending tremendous amounts of military materiel into autocratic Middle Eastern nations and building-up bases in countries whose governments, due to domestic public opinion, often prefer that no publicity be given to the growing American military "footprint."
Given that the current conflict with al-Qaeda stemmed, in no small part, from the U.S. military presence in the region, the issue is obviously of importance. Nonetheless, coverage has been so poor that much about U.S. military efforts there remains unknown. A review of U.S. government documents, financial data, and other open-source material by TomDispatch, however, reveals that an American military building boom yet to be seriously scrutinized, analyzed, or assessed is underway in the Middle East.
Consider, then, what we can at present know now about this Pentagon build-up, country by country from Qatar to Jordan, and while you're reading, think about what we don't know -- and why Washington has chosen this path.
Qatar: The Pentagon's Persian Gulf Pentagon