America's Biggest Mideast Base Is Getting Bigger

(Washington Post) Adam Taylor - Vast sums of money are being spent to improve the Al Udeid air base in Qatar, the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, which currently accommodates 10,000 U.S. troops and can support considerably more. Brig.-Gen. Daniel H. Tulley, commander of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid, said in an interview that the U.S. now faces five major challenges in the region: the conflict in Afghanistan; tensions with Iran; the threat posed by the remains of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; the precarious situation in northern Syria, where U.S.-backed Kurdish forces are in control; and the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is supported by the U.S. He said Al Udeid "is a tremendously strategic location, right in the center of everything." Qatar is not only allowing the expansion, but also funding it and managing the construction, at a price tag estimated as high as $1.8 billion. The U.S. Central Command moved its forward operating base here in 2003, following concerns about a backlash in Saudi Arabia over the large-scale U.S. presence at Prince Sultan air base. Qatar remains under blockade by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both important U.S. allies in the region who host American troops at their own bases. Qatar also maintains ties to Iran. "Iran is a neighbor, and we have to treat it like it is," said Maj.-Gen. Nasser al-Attiyah, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense. He added that Qatar would need to stay neutral in the dispute between the U.S. and Iran and declined to say whether Qatar would allow the U.S. to strike Iranian targets from Al Udeid.

2019-08-23 00:00:00

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