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Kuwait OKs Long-term U.S. Presence, Base Upgrades

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, Oct. 25, 1999 – The United States will maintain a long-term presence in this country and with the Kuwaiti government will upgrade U.S.-used facilities here, a senior defense official said Oct. 23.

Construction is set at roughly $193 million over the next several years. It is uncertain how the United States and Kuwait will share funding, the official said.

Under the plan, which the Kuwaitis approved in August, Al Jaber Air Base, Ali al Salim Air Base and Camp Doha will receive major makeovers. All will receive construction funds to improve U.S. service members' quality of life, including upgrades to living quarters and other facilities.

But the plan goes much further. Construction work will give Ali al Salim Air Base the ability to support more fixed- wing aircraft. "The construction would allow the Air Force to deploy more aircraft into the region quickly, the official said. The Air Force also could pre-position aviation assets so crews could be airlifted into Kuwait in an emergency, draw equipment and begin operations immediately, he added.

Al Jaber Air Base would become an aerial port of debarkation and a military air logistics hub for Kuwait, the senior defense official said. Ramps and runways will be expanded to handle larger aircraft and more traffic.

At Camp Doha, improvements will go mostly into command, control and communications. The base will become standing headquarters of a brigade-sized unit under Operation Desert Spring, which succeeded Exercise Intrinsic Action on Oct. 1. Under Intrinsic Action, Army battalions have been rotated into Camp Doha for training with the Kuwaitis while brigade command elements rotated into various locations in the country.

The official said battalions will still rotate through, but not the brigade headquarters. The advantages of having a permanent headquarters, he said, include stable staffing and operations. The change will cut slightly the number of soldiers who deploy in a rotation -- a headquarters element normally isn't that big, he said.

But the permanent command would also bring other benefits. As an example, when Defense Secretary William Cohen was in Egypt at Exercise Bright Star, he and Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni were able to communicate with all areas of U.S. Central Command.

"The secretary had the ability to communicate with a headquarters element in Kuwait, a headquarters element next door in Saudi Arabia and the rear headquarters back in the United States," the official said. "It was a totally integrated command structure." This means information is available to all in the command chain.

"The Kuwaitis appreciate this because it demonstrates that we'll be here on a continuous basis," the official said.

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