The United States has begun a review of its military
presence in the Gulf region, taking into account regional
threats and rivalries.
Officials said one factor being weighed by the Bush administration is Iran, which stands to emerge as the most
powerful country in the Gulf following the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.
The United States will maintain access to four
military bases in Iraq where it currently has 135,000 troops.
Officials said the review is meant to determine troop levels in all six
Gulf Cooperation Council states, Middle East Newsline reported. The U.S. review is headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who
began a tour of the Gulf region on Sunday. Rumsfeld's first stop was the
United Arab Emirates and the secretary was joined by leading U.S.
Officials said the Pentagon has decided to reduce its military presence
in the Gulf region over the next few months. They said a timetable and other
details would be discussed with GCC states.
In Abu Dhabi, Rumsfeld was joined by U.S. Central Command chief Gen.
Tommy Franks in meetings with UAE military and political leaders. They
included talks with UAE deputy armed forces commander Crown Prince Khalifa
Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammad Bin Zayid Al
We assured them that the United States intends to do what is necessary
to make sure there is a secure environment in Iraq," Rumsfeld said. "There's
no question but that the people of this region are safer today than they
were when the Saddam Hussein regime was in power."
Officials said the UAE provided a range of services for the U.S.-led war
in Iraq. They included U.S. deployment at Al Dhafra air force base, used by
U-2 surveillance aircraft, KC-10 refueling aircraft and Global Hawk
unmanned air vehicles.
Franks, expected to draft a report to Rumsfeld on future military
presence in the Gulf, said the issue of U.S. use of GCC ports and air bases
would require additional study. He said Central Command does not have any
plans to leave
the UAE in the short term.
"In the days and months ahead there will likely be a rearrangement of
the footprint in the region," Franks said. "The way I would characterize it
is we need to study it. We need to see exactly what footprint will have the
highest payoff for us in the future."
The U.S. general also said Central Command wants to maintain its
at the A-Sayliyah base in Qatar, used as a leading command and control
the war in Iraq. Such a base could compensate for any U.S. loss of the much
larger command and control facility at Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan air
"We do know that we want to use it [A-Sayliyah], now that we have it,"
Rumsfeld and Franks flew to Qatar on late Sunday. They are expected in
Bahrain on Monday and could visit Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.