US forces in Gulf top 110,000 as buildup continues
WASHINGTON: US troops and equipment continued to pour into the Gulf region for a possible war with Iraq sending troop levels to at least 110,000, Pentagon officials said.
Many units that received deployment orders since the start of the year have yet to move, though Pentagon officials insist that the buildup remains on track to put more than 150,000 troops in the region by mid-February.
Britain, Washington’s chief ally in the Iraq crisis, already has 25 planes and 1,000 air force personnel in the Gulf region patrolling Iraqi no-fly zones.
That figure will rise in the coming weeks to 100 aircraft — not including 27 Puma and Chinook helicopters — and 8,100 troops, officials said, noting the troop figure could rise as high as 40,000.0.
Australia is to send some 2,000 troops to the Gulf. US forces are located in the following countries:
KUWAIT: About 51,000 troops, mostly US Army and many of whom have been training in the desert near the Iraqi border.
Headquarters for the army in the Central Command are located at Camp Doha. The army’s V Corps and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force also have set up headquarters here in preparation for possible military action.
The 16,500-strong 3rd Infantry Division, which already had an armored brigade in Kuwait, is the anchor for the ground forces here.
Two air bases are used by US and British forces in the region, Al-Jaber and Ali Salem. In the past A-10 Thunderbolt anti-tank planes and fighter aircraft have been stationed at al Jaber and British Tornados at Ali Salem.
SAUDI ARABIA: About 4,500 troops, mostly air force based at Prince Sultan air base (PSAB) in the desert south of Riyadh.
The Afghan air campaign was directed from a combined air operations center that opened there in 2001. The base also is a hub for US fighter aircraft, E-3 AWACS radar planes, other surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, and air refueling planes.
NAVY: The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk will be leaving Japan for the Gulf. Three others are in the region — the USS Abraham Lincoln is in the Sea of Oman; the USS Constellation is in the Gulf, and the carrier USS Harry S Truman is in the eastern Mediterannean. The USS Theodore Roosevelt has been ordered to the Mediterannean when it completes training off Puerto Rico..
Besides the carriers, an amphibious assault group led by the USS Nassau is in the region with 2,200 Marines.
QATAR: About 5,500 military personnel, mostly at al-Udaid air base southwest of Doha and at As Sayliyah army base outside the capital. Qatar is the likely headquarters for all US forces if the United States goes to war with Iraq.
The US Central Command has installed a deployable headquarters at As Sayliyah, giving Army General Tommy Franks the option of using it to command all US forces in case of a war.
The air force also has set up a back up combined air operations center at al Udeid Air Base that could be used if Saudi Arabia denies the use of Prince Sultan Air Base.
Newly upgraded, al Udeid has a 15,000 feet (4,500 metre) long runway, the longest in the region. Analysts say new hardened shelters are large enough to accommodate 40-80 aircraft.
BAHRAIN: More than 5,000 US forces, mostly US Navy. US Fifth Fleet headquarters are located there, making it the nerve center for all US warships in the Red Sea, the Gulf, and the Arabian Sea.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: About 1,200 US military personnel are in the emirates, a stopping point for US naval vessels.
TURKEY: About 2,000 US troops. US and British air forces operate from Incirlik air base, flying patrols over northern Iraq to enforce a no-fly zone. In the past about 50 US aircraft, mostly fighters, have been stationed there.
In principle, Turkey has agreed to allow up to 20,000 US ground troops to move through its territory in the event of a war, officials say.
JORDAN: Jordan says its territory will not be used to invade Iraq. But US troops will man three Patriot anti-missile batteries to protect Amman against missile attack, diplomats said. The kingdom will allow search and rescue missions and will not object to US overflights, according to officials and diplomats.
DJIBOUTI: About 1,300 US military personnel are based in this tiny state on the Horn of Africa, part of a counter-terrorism task force. A 400-member task force headquarters is aboard the command ship USS Mount Whitney.
OMAN: About 2,700 US military personnel. Omani ports and airfields serve as important transit points for forces heading either up the Gulf or to Afghanistan.
AFGHANISTAN: About 10,000 US troops. These include forces from the crack 82nd Airborne Division, which recently took over headquarters responsibilities from the 10th Mountain Division. —AFP