[News] The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 24 11:43:00 EST 2009

The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf

As Washington Talks Iraq Withdrawal, the Pentagon Builds Up Bases in the Region
By Nick Turse

Despite recent large-scale insurgent suicide 
bombings that have 
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 
down U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August 2010 
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 
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 

"[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 
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

In 1996, although it had no air force of its own, 
the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar built 
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 
and around Al Udeid.  In 2005, the Qatari 
government spent almost $400 million to build a 
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, 
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. 
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 <http://www.contrack.com/>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 
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.

In 1991, the U.S. military helped to push Saddam 
Hussein's army out of Kuwait. After that, 
however, the country's leader, Sheikh Jaber 
al-Ahmed al-Sabah, 
to return home "until crystal chandeliers and 
gold-plated bathroom fixtures could be 
reinstalled in Kuwait City's Bayan Palace." 
Today, about 30 miles south of the plush palace 
sits another pricey complex. 
Arifjan grew exponentially as the Iraq War ramped 
up, gaining notoriety along the way as the 
of a massive graft and corruption scandal. Today, 
the base 
about 15,000 U.S. troops and features such 
fast-food favorites as Pizza Hut, Hardees, Subway, and Burger King.

Another facility in Kuwait that has become a 
major stopover point on the road to and from 
Baghdad is Camp Buehring. Located north of Kuwait 
City, near the town of Udairi, the installation 
is chock-a-block full of amenities, including 
three PXs, telephone centers, two internet cafes, 
Morale, Welfare and Recreation centers, a movie 
theater, chapel, gym, volley-ball court, 
basketball court, concert stage, gift shop, 
barber shop, jewelry store, and a number of 
popular eateries including Burger King, Subway, Baskin Robbins, and Starbucks.

Writing about the base recently, Captain Charles 
Barrett of the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Heavy 
Brigade Combat Team 
"There's a USO with computers and a Café. You 
know the café is good because it has that little 
mark over the letter 'e.' Soldiers are gaming on 
XBOX, Play Station and Wii. There are phone banks 
and board games and a place where parents can 
read to their kids and have the DVD mailed home."

The price tag for living the big-box-base 
lifestyle in Kuwait has, however, been steep. 
 From 2003 to 2009, the U.S. Army spent in excess 
of $502 million on contracts for construction 
projects in the small, oil-rich nation, while the 
Air Force added almost $55 million and the Navy 
another $7 million. Total military spending there 
has been more massive still. Over the same span, 
according to U.S. government data, the Pentagon 
has spent nearly $20 billion in Kuwait, buying 
huge quantities of Kuwaiti oil and purchasing 
logistical support from various contractors for 
its facilities there (and elsewhere), among other expenditures.

In 2006, for example, the international 
construction firm Archirodon was awarded $10 
million to upgrade airfield lighting at Al-Salem 
and Al-Jaber, two Kuwaiti 
bases used by American forces. Recently, there 
has also been a major scaling up of work at Camp 
Arifjan. In September, for example, the Pentagon 
Hill Contractors a nearly $26 million deal to 
build a new communications facility on the base. 
Just days later, defense contractor ITT received 
an almost $87 million contract for maintenance and support services there.

Saudi Base Building and Jordan's U.S. Army Training Complex

According to a recent Congressional Research 
Service report, "From 1950 through 2006, Saudi 
Arabia purchased and received from the United 
States weapons, military equipment, and related 
services through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) 
worth over $62.7 billion and foreign military 
construction services (FMCS) worth over $17.1 
billion." Between 1946 and 2007, the Saudis also 
benefited from almost $295 million in foreign 
assistance funding from the U.S. military.

 From the lead up to the First Gulf War in 1990 
through the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. 
military stationed thousands of troops in Saudi 
Arabia. The American presence in the kingdom -- 
the location of some of the holiest sites in 
Islam -- was a major factor in touching off 
al-Qaeda's current war with the United States. In 
2003, in 
to fundamentalist pressure on the Saudi 
government, the U.S. military announced it was 
all but a small number of trainers out of the 
country. Yet while many U.S. troops have left, 
Pentagon contracts haven't -- a significant 
portion of them for construction projects for the 
Saudi Arabian military, which the U.S. trains and 
advises from sites like Eskan Village, a compound 
20 kilometers south of Riyadh, where 800 U.S. 
personnel (500 of them advisors) are 

Between 2003-2009, the U.S. Army awarded $559 
million in contracts for Saudi construction 
projects. In 2009, for example, it gave a $160 
million deal to construction firm 
Oger Limited for the construction of facilities 
for a Saudi mechanized brigade based at Al Hasa, 
a $127 million contract to 
<http://www.salmoc.net/proj.html>Saudi Lebanese 
Modern Construction Co. to erect structures for 
the Prince Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Battalion, and an 
$82 million agreement to top Saudi construction 
firm <http://www.latifia.com/index.php>Al-Latifia 
Trading and Contracting Company to build 
ammunition storage bunkers, possibly at the Saudi 
Arabian National Guard's Khashm Al An Training Area.

Additionally, military 
has continued to flow into Saudi Arabia by way of 
the Pentagon and so, too, have contracts to 
provide support services for that materiel. For 
example, earlier this year, under a U.S. Air 
Force contract extension, Cubic Corporation was 
a $9.5 million deal "to continue to operate and 
maintain the air combat training system used to 
support F-15 fighter pilot training for the Royal Saudi Air Force."

Like the Saudis, Jordan's leader, King Abdullah 
II, has long had a 
relationship with the U.S. 
by domestic concerns over U.S. military action in 
the region and support for Israel. As with Saudi 
Arabia, none of that has stopped the U.S. 
military from forging ever closer ties with the kingdom.

Recently, after testing and evaluating various 
training systems at multiple U.S. Army bases, the 
Jordanian Armed Forces selected Cubic's combat 
training center system and under the auspices of 
the U.S. Army, the company was "awarded an $18 
million contract to supply mobile combat training 
center instrumentation and training services to the Kingdom of Jordan."

The Pentagon has also invested in Jordanian 
military infrastructure. Between 2001-2009, the 
Army awarded $86 million in contracts for 
Jordanian construction projects. One major 
beneficiary was again Archirodon which, between 
2006-2008, worked on the construction of the 
Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center 
(KASOTC) -- a state-of-the-art military and 
counter-terrorism training 
owned and operated by the Jordanian government 
but built, in part, under a $70 million U.S. Army 
contract. In 2009, Archirodon was awarded two 
additional contracts for $729,000 and $400,000, 
by the Air Force, for unspecified work in Jordan.

When that 1,235-acre $200 million Jordanian 
training center was unveiled earlier this year, 
King Abdullah II himself gave the inaugural 
"of his vision for KASOTC as a world-class 
special forces training center." Not 
surprisingly, General Petraeus was also on hand 
to give a speech in which he lauded Jordan as "a 
key partner... [which] has placed itself at the 
forefront of police and military training for regional security forces."

Garrisoning the Gulf

Even as it lurches toward a quasi-withdrawal from 
Iraq, the U.S. military has been hunkering down 
and hardening its presence elsewhere in the 
Middle East with little fanfare or press 
coverage. There has been almost no discussion in 
this country of a host of possible repercussions 
that might come from this, ranging from local 
opposition to the U.S. military's presence to the 
arming of undemocratic and repressive regimes in 
the region. With the sole exception of Iran, the 
U.S. military has fully garrisoned the nations of 
the Persian Gulf with air bases, naval bases, 
desert posts, training centers, and a whole host 
of other facilities, while also building up the 
military capacity of nearby Jordan.

The CIA efforts to topple Iran's government in 
the 1950s, Washington's support for Saddam 
Hussein's Iraq in the 1980s, the Pentagon's troop 
presence in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s -- all were 
considered canny geopolitical moves in their 
time; all had unforeseen and devastating 
consequences. The money the Pentagon has recently 
been pouring into the nations of the Persian Gulf 
to bulk up base infrastructure has only tied the 
U.S. ever more tightly to the region's 
autocratic, often unpopular regimes, while 
further arming and militarizing an area 
traditionally considered unstable. The Pentagon's 
Persian Gulf base build-up has already cost 
Americans billions in tax dollars. What the costs 
in "blowback" will be remains the unknown part of the equation.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of 
TomDispatch.com and the winner of a 2009 
Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as 
well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice 
Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los 
Angeles Times, 
Nation, In These Times, and regularly at 
TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New 
York University's Center for the United States 
and the Cold War. A paperback edition of his book 
Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday 
Lives (Metropolitan Books) was published earlier 
this year. His website is <http://www.nickturse.com/>NickTurse.com.

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