The US military is expanding its operations in Saudi Arabia and looking to establish bases in the western part of the country. The initiative began about a year ago and was just revealed to reporters by Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command.
According to McKenzie, the US has been using various air bases and seaports in western Saudi Arabia and is working to build its own bases in the region. As part of the plan, the US and Saudi Arabia are negotiating infrastructure projects that would make two ports on the Red Sea and two airbases in the west more suitable for the use of the US military.
The idea is that US bases in Qatar, the UAE, and Bahrain are in the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles, and bases further west would be beneficial in a conflict with Tehran, something McKenzie explained to reporters.
“The Arabian Gulf would be contested waters under any scenario of armed conflict with Iran, so you look at the places where you would move your forces as they enter the theater from being in a contested area,” he said.
McKenzie stressed that everything is in its preliminary stages, and nothing has been decided. With the new Biden administration promising to take a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia, only time will tell if the US takes these steps that will establish a more permanent presence in the country.
The Trump administration sent troops to Saudi Arabia in 2019, the first time US forces were deployed to the country since 2003. There are currently thousands of US troops in Saudi Arabia, along with fighter jets and other military equipment. The US military presence in Saudi Arabia throughout the 1990s was one of Osama bin Laden’s main recruitment tools for al-Qaeda.