ABU DHABI ø The U.S. Fifth Fleet may delay the return of
dependents of military personnel to Bahrain.
U.S. officials said the Fifth Fleet envisioned the prospect that sailors
would not be allowed to bring their families to Bahrain over the next year
amid the heightened threat of an Al Qaida attack. As a result, they said,
the Defense Department has approved a plan for a six-month rotation of more
than 250 sailors based in Manama.
The first rotation was scheduled for mid-August and would include
sailors from four ships based in Bahrain. The next rotation was scheduled
for February 2005.
The Fifth Fleet and the Defense Department have completed the evacuation
of dependents from Bahrain amid Al Qaida's threats against Western interests
in the kingdom. Over the last month, 940 U.S. dependents were flown from
Bahrain to a naval base in Virginia.
"The relocation went smoothly," Fifth Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Jamie
The evacuation was ordered in early July and was meant to have lasted 30
days. But the Fifth Fleet has not announced when the dependents would
return, a decision that officials said would be left to the Pentagon.
The evacuation of dependents as well as non-emergency Pentagon personnel
was expected to affect operations of a Pentagon school in Manama. Over the
last year, the Bahrain School contained 350 children of the U.S. military
dependents and 60 American teachers. The teachers have also been evacuated.
The Pentagon has been conducting talks with Bahraini authorities over
the future of the school. One option, discussed in a meeting held in Manama
last week, was to refer students to the Bahrain International School.