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Are We Really 'Withdrawing' from Bush's Wars? Quietly, US Constructs Even More Bases in the Mideast

The news is focused on a future U.S. withdrawal from Iraq -- but the withdrawal isn't to send the military presence home -- it's into bases across the Persian Gulf.

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In 1996, although it had no air force of its own, the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar built Al Udeid Air Base at a cost of more than $1 billion. The goal: attracting the U.S. military. In September 2001, U.S. aircraft began to operate out of the facility. By 2002, tanks, armored vehicles, dozens of warehouses, communications and computing equipment, and thousands of troops were based at and around Al Udeid.  In 2005, the Qatari government spent almost $400 million to build a cutting-edge regional air operations center.

Today, Qatar is all but indispensable to the U.S. military. Just recently, for example, Central Command redeployed 750 personnel from its Tampa, Florida headquarters to its new forward headquarters at Al Udeid to test its "staff's ability to seamlessly transition command and control of operations… in the event of a crisis in the CENTCOM area of responsibility or a natural disaster in Florida."

Qatar has not, however, picked up the whole tab for the expanding U.S. military infrastructure in the country. The Pentagon has also been investing large amounts of money in upgrading facilities there for the last decade. From 2001-2009, the U.S. Army, for example, awarded $209 million in contracts for construction in the energy-rich emirate. In August, Rizzani de Eccher, an Italian engineering and construction giant, signed a $44 million deal with the Pentagon to replace an unspecified facility at Al Udeid. In September, the Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Florida-based IAP Worldwide Services a $6 million contract for "construction of a pre-engineered warehouse building... warehouse bay and related site work and utilities" at the base.

Later in the month, American International Contractors, a global construction firm that specializes in "US-funded Middle East and African infrastructure projects," inked a deal for nearly $10 million to build a Special Operations Forces Training Range, complete with "a two-story shooting house, an indoor range, breach and storage facilities[,] a test fire bunker and bunker road" in Qatar. Just days after that, the Pentagon awarded a $52 million contract to Cosmopolitan–EMTA JV to upgrade the capacity of Al Udeid's airfield by building additional aircraft parking ramps and fuel storage facilities.

Bahrain Base's and Kuwait's Subways

In nearby Bahrain -- a tiny kingdom of 750,000 people -- the U.S. stations up to 3,000 personnel, in addition to regular visits by the crews of Navy ships that spend time there. Between 2001-2009, the Navy awarded $203 million in construction contracts for military projects in the country. One big winner over that span has been the engineering and construction firm Contrack International. It received more than $50 million in U.S. government funds for such projects as building two "multi-story facilities for the U.S. Navy" complete with state-of-the-art communication interfaces and exterior landscaping.

In September 2009, the company was awarded a new $27 million deal "for the design/bid/build construction of the waterfront development program, US Naval Support Activity, Bahrain." This facility will join the Navy's undisputed crown jewel in Bahrain -- a 188,000 square-foot mega-facility known as "the Freedom Souq" that houses a PX or Navy Exchange (NEX). The NEX, in turn, offers "an ice cream shop, bicycle shop, cell phone shop, tailor shop, barber and beauty shops, self-serve laundry, dry cleaning service, rug Souq, nutrition shop, video rental, and a 24/7 mini-mart," while selling everything from cosmetics and cameras to beer and wine.

Work is also going on in nearby Oman where, in the 1930s, the British Royal Air Force utilized an airfield on Masirah Island for its ventures in the Middle East. Today, the U.S. Air Force and members of other service branches do much the same, operating out of the island's Camp Justice. From 2001-2009, the Army and Air Force each spent about $13 million on construction projects in the sultanate. Contractor Cosmopolitan-EMTA JV is now set to begin work there, too, after recently signing a $5 million contract with the Pentagon for an "Expeditionary Tent Beddown" (presumably an area meant to accommodate a potential future influx of forces). Meanwhile, in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Army alone spent $46 million between 2001-2009 on construction projects.

 
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