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U.S. planning troop buildup in Gulf after pullout from Iraq: report

(Xinhua)

08:42, October 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- The United States plans to bolster its military presence in the Gulf region after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to a U.S. newspaper report published on Sunday.

This planned repositioning of U.S. troops could include deploying new combat forces in Kuwait, in order to respond to a possible collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran, the New York Times reported.

The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement on Oct. 21 to withdraw the remaining U.S. soldiers from Iraq by the end of this year, in a move to fulfill his campaign promise to end the eight-year war.

But Obama's decision has stirred up worries among the U.S. military and political officials, as well as several countries in the Gulf region, that the pullout could leave instability or worse in its wake.

So the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative plan, which includes sending more naval warships through international waters in the region, in addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the report said.

With an eye on Iran, the United States is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

The Obama administration and the U.S. military are trying to foster a new "security architecture" for the Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.

At an unusual joint meeting with the council on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the proposal on establishing a stronger, multilateral security alliance with the six nations, according to the report.

The size of the standby American combat force to be based in Kuwait remains the subject of negotiations, the report said, adding that the successful deployment plans from past decades could be incorporated into plans for a post-Iraq footprint in the region.

During the time between the Gulf War in 1991 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. Army kept at least a combat battalion -- and sometimes a full combat brigade -- in Kuwait year-round, along with an enormous arsenal ready to be unpacked should more U.S. troops have been called to the region, the report said.

Karl Horst, chief of staff of the U.S. Central Command, was quoted as saying that the command was focusing on smaller but highly capable deployments and training partnerships with regional militaries. He said that training exercises were "a sign of commitment to presence, a sign of commitment of resources, and a sign of commitment in building partner capability and partner capacity."

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