Friday, March 24, 2006

Are Those US Bases In Iraq Permanent?

So now the concern starts to develop. Why, if there is an intention to withdraw large numbers of US troops, is the Bush administration asking for hundreds of millions of dollars to build massive bases in Iraq? Of the $67.7 billion emergency spending bill for military operations which was passed in the House of Representatives, $384 million is earmarked for base construction.

Although the House approved the measure, lawmakers are demanding the Pentagon explain its base plans and have unanimously passed a provision blocking the use of funds for basing agreements with the Iraqi government.


The base intrigue also is problematic in the Middle East, where it lends credence to charges that the U.S. motive for the invasion was to seize Iraqi land and oil. It also feeds debate about the appropriate U.S. relationship with Iraq after the new government fully assumes control.


Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Baghdad, last week told Iraqi television that the U.S. has "no goal of establishing permanent bases in Iraq."
There seems to be a little confusion though.

Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander in charge of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, replied, "The policy on long-term presence in Iraq hasn't been formulated."
That's a little more realistic, although it lacks veracity. The bases that are getting the massive funding are Al Asad air base, Balad air base, Camp Taji and Tallil air base, all of which are massive. In that three of the four huge bases are major air bases, turning them over to the Iraqis would seem a little irrational - Iraq has no air force and no air force is being trained.

Step back from Iraq, look at US military positioning and a better view starts to form.

On March 17th, the US military quietly boosted its strength at Anderson Air Force Base on Guam in the Mariannas Islands by making the expeditionary air wing permanent. What the press release doesn't say is that in 2004, the USAF permanently stationed a B-52 bomber squadron at Guam and has been rotating B-2 bombers through the base. Guam also became the first installation outside the continental United States to store 3,000-pound conventional air-launched cruise missiles. Guam has also increased its naval strength in the past three years by increasing its base operation and improving its ship and submarine repair facility.

The US is also realigning bases in Japan, South Korea and Okinawa. While there is some streamlining going on, there is a net increase in the forces at all bases. The US Marine air base at Iwakuni, Japan, for example, will increase personnel from 3500 to 5100 and its aircraft from 53 to 110.

Bush's cozying up to India recently, and his push for congressional approval of his provision to India of nuclear technology adds significantly to the picture. Nobody is under any illusions as to the state of India's military nuclear capability and Bush's nuclear deal, along with an expanded military aid package, including the sale of Aegis combat systems , improved components for India's combat aircraft development and new airborne early warning radar, will make India a formidable power in the region.

The US military, under US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is carrying out a strategic realignment. 50,000 US military personnel will be pulled out of Europe, reducing the European command by one-half, and disbursed to new stations, most of which are in the Pacific.

The US re-introduced troops to the Philippines in 2003, ostensibly for a joint exercise with the Philippine army. Except, when the exercise was over, the troops never left. The US naval base at Subic Bay has had its lease extended again giving the US Navy four bases in the western Pacific from which to conduct surge operations.

So, while the US dodges the words "permanent bases" in Iraq, their growth in one area of the eastern hemisphere suggests that there will always be a strong US presence in Iraq. While those bases provide a strike capability in the region, if you marry them up with the current re-alignment of US forces you can see what's actually happening and why those bases in Iraq are so important.

They are part of an encirclement.

It's all about China.

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