U.S. to keep 20 bases in Iraq through 2006

Thursday, March 18, 2004

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 country.

"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.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts

Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives