U.S. pullout from Saudi Arabia will leave only advisors behind

Tuesday, September 2, 2003

The United States plans to complete its withdrawal from Saudi Arabia within several days.

"Today ends more than a decade of military operations in this strategic Middle East nation," Maj. Gen. Robert Elder Jr., the 9th Aerospace Expeditionary Task Force vice commander, said. "The end of [major combat operation in Iraq] and Saddam Hussein's government means the American military mission here is over."

Elder said Saudi Arabia and the United States will not end military cooperation. Instead, he said the air forces of the two countries would begin a new relationship.

Officials said several hundred U.S. military advisers will remain in the kingdom and will concentrate on training and arms procurement. French military personnel will also remain at Prince Sultan and will deal with search-and-rescue training, Middle East Newsline reported.

U.S. officials said the bulk of the withdrawal of military personnel and aircraft has been completed. They said the last of U.S. air force personnel will be withdrawal in early September.

On Aug. 26, U.S. officials transferred control of portions of Prince Sultan Air Base to Saudi officials. At the same time, the air force ended the presence of the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing in the kingdom.

The United States maintained more than 5,000 troops and 100 aircraft at Prince Sultan during the war in Iraq. In all, the base, located in Kharj, about 80 kilometers south of Riyad, hosted 60,000 coalition forces since 1996.

On April 29, the United States announced the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia. Officials said the mission would be completed by September.

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