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Wednesday, April 6, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Gulf states to maintain presence in Bahrain
'as long as is needed'

ABU DHABI — The Gulf Cooperation Council plans to maintain its military force in Bahrain indefinitely.


Officials said the six-member GCC has agreed on an indefinite deployment of more than 5,000 troops in Bahrain. According to the GCC, the troops, under the mandate of Peninsula Shield, have enhanced security of strategic sites, which have freed up Bahraini troops to quell Shi'ite unrest.

"Our presence in Bahrain will continue as long as is needed," Peninsula Shield commander Maj. Gen. Mutlaq Bin Salem Al Azaima said.

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In an interview with the Saudi newspaper Okaz, Al Azaima provided details of GCC deployment in Bahrain. The Saudi general said the Peninsula Shield mission marked about five percent of total capability.

"Our mission is to protect Bahrain from any external aggression, as well as its vital institutions, strategic centers, camps and military bases," Al Azaima said on April 4.

The Shi'ite opposition said the Saudi Arabian contingent marked the largest foreign military presence in Bahrain. Opposition sources said Saudi soldiers were participating in raids of Shi'ite strongholds.

Al Azaima said the Bahraini mission reflected a resurgency of Peninsula Shield, deployed for the first time since 2002. He said the GCC would conduct regular exercises as the six states seek to enhance regional defense and security.

"The forces will possibly return once, twice or three times for training and performing joint exercises with our dear GCC countries," Al Azaima said.

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