BAGHDAD -- U.S. officials said the U.S. military would retain more than 20 bases
throughout Iraq through 2006 in an effort to maintain stability in that
country. They said that until 2006 the military would conduct another review
to determine U.S. needs in Iraq for the remainder of the decade.
The United States has set a June 30 deadline to hand over sovereignty to
Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. But officials said U.S. and coalition forces would remain involved
with security responsibilities after that date.
"We don't have any long-term permanent basing decisions here in Iraq,"
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the U.S. military
in Iraq, said. "We will certainly need bases in Iraq in the near term and
medium term to provide a safe and stable and secure environment for the
people of Iraq."
Officials dismissed reports that the United States would be limited to
six bases in Iraq after Washington hands over full sovereignty. They said
this was an initial assessment made in May 2003 after the toppling of the
Saddam Hussein regime.
Since then, officials said, the Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of
Staff have formulated a staged approach linked to the stabilization of Iraq.
They said such an approach would require dozens of bases throughout the
"We will have quite a few more than six bases in Iraq following return
of sovereignty," Kimmit said.
"My assessment is the Iraqi Security Forces are improving their
capabilities each and every day and taking on an increasing role, thereby
reducing the burden on coalition forces," Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, commander
of the U.S. Army's Task Force Olympia, said.