U.S. Military Leaves Saudi Arabia for Qatar

(Christian Science Monitor) - In recent months, the U.S. military has quietly moved munitions, equipment and communications gear to the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar, in the central Persian Gulf, from Saudi Arabia, the control center for American air operations in the Gulf for more than a decade. About 3,300 American troops are in Qatar, mostly at Al Udeid, where the signs of an American military buildup are unmistakable: * A tent city has sprouted, with warehouses and miles of security barriers, attesting to the U.S. military's focus on protecting troops against terrorist attack. * Freshly paved runways and aircraft parking ramps stretch deep into the desert. * Newly built hangars for fighter aircraft are hardened to withstand aerial attack. Within view from the main 15,000-foot runway are hardened bunkers, presumably for munitions and supply storage. "It is likely the most capable base in the Gulf region," says William Arkin, a private military analyst. Soon after Sept. 11, Qatar granted permission for the U.S. to send warplanes to Al Udeid. They flew attack missions over Afghanistan. Al Udeid also is host to Air Force Red Horse squadrons, rapid-response teams of civil engineers that can repair and build structures such as runways and roads in remote areas. It is believed that Al Udeid is being built up as an alternative to, or replacement for, the Combined Air Operations Center at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Other U.S. military bases in the Gulf area include Camp Doha in Kuwait with nearly 10,000 Army soldiers, and Bahrain, headquarters for the Navy's Fifth Fleet with 4,200 troops. Several thousand are in Saudi Arabia and a few thousand in Oman.

2002-07-05 00:00:00

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