MacDill Air Force Base: The Obama administration plans to bolster the US military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats.
This repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.
The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Barack Obama’s announcement this month that the last US soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by December-end.
Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of Obama’s presidential campaign, but US military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.
After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 US troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative. In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the US is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.
The Obama administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.