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NEWS: US massing combat forces in Kuwait

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The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday that "The Pentagon has quietly shifted combat troops and warships to the Middle East," in a move approved by the White House in late December "as a quick-reaction and contingency force in case a military crisis erupts in the standoff with Tehran over its suspected nuclear weapons program."[1]  --  "The new units include two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit [described as a "combat aviation brigade" by Army Times[7]] -- a substantial increase in combat power after nearly a decade in which Kuwait chiefly served as a staging area for supplies and personnel heading to Iraq," said David S. Cloud.  --  In addition, the USS Carl Vinson has joined the USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Sea.  --  Reuters said the Pentagon was "downplaying" the buildup, but added that "a third [aircraft carrier] was on its way to the region,"[2] the USS Abraham Lincoln.[6]  --  (The size of a U.S. Army brigade is 2,500-4,000 personnel, and each aircraft carrier has more than 6,000 personnel.)  --  Russia Today and Iran's Press TV noted the buildup.[3,4]  --  Stars and Stripes reported that the U.S. troops "will remain in the country for the time being" and that "The exact number of troops and their makeup are details that are still being negotiated by the U.S. and Kuwaiti authorities."[5]  --  Only two months ago Kuwait's defense minister "was quoted as saying U.S. forces would only use his nation as a staging point.  Now it appears that is likely to change."  --  "A military official told Army Times that it’s likely the U.S. will have a 'continued presence in Kuwait, similar to before 2003.'"[7]  --  The units in Kuwait, which have apparently been there since Jan. 5, are "1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, of Fort Hood, Texas, and 1st BCT, 34th Infantry Division, of the Minnesota National Guard," along with "the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade from the Maryland National Guard," Michelle Tan said.  --  In addition, "The New York Guard’s 27th Brigade Combat Team, which had been called to deploy to Afghanistan, will deploy to Kuwait instead."  --  NOTE:  It is interesting that all of these stories maintain what appears to be a blackout of news during the past week about the previously announced U.S.-Israeli "missile defense exercise" involving about 9,000 U.S. personnel deployed to Israel, dubbed "Austere Challenge 12." ...

1.

U.S. TROOPS QUIETLY SURGE INTO MIDDLE EAST

By David S. Cloud

San Francisco Chronicle

January 13, 2012

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/01/12/MNR11MOPB2.DTL


The Pentagon has quietly shifted combat troops and warships to the Middle East after the top American commander in the region warned that he needed additional forces to deal with Iran and other potential threats, U.S. officials said.

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who heads U.S. Central Command, won White House approval for the deployments late last year after talks with the government in Baghdad broke down over keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, but the extent of the Pentagon moves is only now becoming clear.

Officials said the deployments are not meant to suggest a buildup to war, but rather are intended as a quick-reaction and contingency force in case a military crisis erupts in the standoff with Tehran over its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The Pentagon has stationed nearly 15,000 troops in Kuwait, adding to a small contingent already there.  The new units include two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit -- a substantial increase in combat power after nearly a decade in which Kuwait chiefly served as a staging area for supplies and personnel heading to Iraq.

The Pentagon also has decided to keep two aircraft carriers and their strike groups in the region.

Earlier this week, the American carrier Carl Vinson joined the carrier Stennis in the Arabian Sea, giving commanders major naval and air assets in case Iran carries out its recent threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic chokepoint in the Persian Gulf, where one-fifth of the world's oil shipments passes.

2.

PENTAGON DOWNPLAYS REPORTS OF MIDEAST BUILDUP

By David Alexander

Reuters
January 13, 2012

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/13/us-usa-defense-gulf-idUSTRE80C27L20120113


The Pentagon said on Friday that Iran's "destabilizing behavior" was a factor in its planning in the Middle East but sought to discourage speculation the U.S. military was quietly building up forces in the region to counter any perceived threat.

The number of U.S. forces in Kuwait has grown to about 15,000 in recent weeks, including two combat brigades, as troops have withdrawn from Iraq following the end of the war there.

Navy Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said he was not aware of any decision to permanently increase the number of troops based in Kuwait.

The U.S. force there has expanded temporarily because a brigade deployed to Iraq at the end of the war had been shifted to Kuwait to finish its deployment, he said.

Force numbers in any given location shift regularly depending on needs, Kirby said.

"I'm not aware of any plus-up that's been ordered into Kuwait.  And I don't think the numbers would bear out that there is, in fact, a huge plus-up in Kuwait," he told reporters.

Earlier this week, the military said a second aircraft carrier had arrived in the Arabian Sea and a third was on its way to the region.  The Pentagon portrayed this as a normal rotation, with one ship en route to its home port. Kirby said it was not unusual to have two carriers in the region.

The movements come at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.  Iran has threatened action if another U.S. carrier moves into the Gulf and has said it might try to close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which much of the region's oil is shipped.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that any such action would be a red line requiring a U.S. response.

But Kirby sought to downplay reports that "we're ramping up presence in the Middle East because of Iran."

"Iran is certainly a factor in our discussions with our allies and in our thinking about the future of the Middle East -- there's no question about it -- thanks to their destabilizing behavior," Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.

"But I want to disabuse everybody of the notion that there's some kind of quiet increase going on, specifically aimed at some sort of contingency planning for any one country in that part of the world," he said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the United States would have about 40,000 troops in the region after the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq at the end of 2011.  Kirby declined to specify where they would all be located.

Kirby did say the Middle East is a vital and sometimes dangerous part of the world where the United States had "to be ready and we will be" to fulfill security commitments to friends and allies.

(Reporting By David Alexander; editing by Todd Eastham)


3.

U.S. STATIONS 15,000 TROOPS IN KUWAIT


Russia Today
January 13, 2012

http://rt.com/usa/news/us-troops-kuwait-iran-741/


The United States is not at war with Iran yet, but just in case, the Pentagon says they want to be prepared.  To do so, the Department of Defense has dispatched 15,000 troops to the neighboring nation of Kuwait.

Gen. James Mattis, the Marine Corps head that rules over the U.S. Central Command, won approval late last year from the White House to deploy the massive surge to the tiny West Asian country Kuwait, which is separated from Iran by only a narrow span of the Persian Gulf.

The latest deployment, which was ushered in without much presentation to the public, adds a huge number of troops aligned with America’s arsenal that are now surrounding Iran on literally every front.  In late 2011, the U.S. equipped neighboring United Arab Emirates with advanced weaponry created to disrupt underground nuclear operations.  In adjacent Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, American military presence has long been all but enormous.

While the U.S. has not placed any boots on the ground in Iran, an unauthorized surveillance mission of a U.S. stealth drone in December prompted Tehran to become enraged at Washington.  U.S. officials insist that Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weaponry program, despite lacking sufficient evidence or confirmation.  During the drone mission, Iran authorities intercepted the craft and forced it into a safe landing.  Tensions have only worsened between the two nations in the month since, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that stealth missions into Iran will continue “absolutely,” despite ongoing opposition from overseas.

In calling for the latest surge to Kuwait, Gen. Mattis said the deployment was necessary to keep Iran in check and keep America prepared for any other threats in the area.  It comes only weeks after the last American troops vacated nearby Iraq, where the U.S. still in actuality has an advance presence -- the American embassy in Baghdad employs thousands of armed military contractors.

The move to build up military presence in Kuwait comes at a time when the foreign government is at odds to a degree with a U.S.  While protesters in America this week have demonstrated against the ten year anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility, the Kuwait government has increased efforts to have two of their own men transferred out of Gitmo and sent back home.  Both Fawzi al-Odah and Fayiz al-Kandari have been detained at Guantanamo since 2002, although only one of the two Kuwaiti citizens has ever been charged.

4.

U.S. DEPLOYS 15,000 TROOPS IN KUWAIT


Press TV (Iran)
January 14, 2012

http://presstv.com/detail/221028.html


As the United States continues its threats of war against Iran, its Department of Defense has recently dispatched some 15,000 troops to neighboring Kuwait.

Late last year, Marine General James Mattis quietly won the White House's approval for the deployment into the small nation which is separated from Iran by a narrow stretch of the Persian Gulf.

Mattis says the deployment aims to keep Iran in check and keep the U.S. prepared for threats in the region.

The latest deployment adds to the strong presence of U.S.-led troops in the region in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although weeks have passed since the U.S. vacated its troops from Iraq, it still has advanced presence in the area through its embassy in Baghdad, where thousands of armed military contractors are still being employed.

Also late last year, the U.S. equipped neighboring United Emirates with advanced weaponry aimed at disrupting underground nuclear activities.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Army downed a U.S. reconnaissance drone which had crossed over into Iran's airspace near its border with neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S., Israel, and their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing a military nuclear program and have used this allegation as a pretext to sway the UNSC to impose four rounds of sanctions on Iran.

Based on these accusations, they have also repeatedly threatened Tehran with the "option" of a military strike.

5.

SOLDIERS IN KUWAIT TO SERVE AS A RESPONSE FORCE


Stars and Stripes

January 14, 2012

http://www.stripes.com/news/soldiers-in-kuwait-to-serve-as-a-response-force-1.165970


About 15,000 U.S. soldiers who are currently deployed to Kuwait will remain in the country for the time being, according to to Army officials quoted in an Army Times report Saturday. [See #7 below.]

The exact number of troops and their makeup are details that are still being negotiated by the U.S. and Kuwaiti authorities.

Two months ago, the Kuwaiti defense minister was quoted as saying U.S. forces would only use his nation as a staging point.  Now it appears that is likely to change, with the United States maintaining a force capable of responding to various contingencies should the need arise.

As of last week, the U.S. contingent consisted of soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, and the 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard, among others.  Both belong to the 1st Brigade Combat Team. Also in the mix is the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade of the Maryland National Guard.

A spokeswoman for the brigade was quoted in the *Army Times* story as saying the combat team would serve as a response force for U.S. Central Command.

6.

[Blog]

Stripes Central

PENTAGON: MILITARY BUILDUP NEAR IRAN NOT AIMED SPECIFICALLY AT IRAN

By Chris Carroll

Stars and Stripes

January 13, 2012

http://www.stripes.com/blogs/stripes-central/stripes-central-1.8040/pentagon-military-buildup-near-iran-not-aimed-specifically-at-iran-1.165909

WASHINGTON --
The number of U.S. combat troops in Kuwait has risen sharply “based on the need” in the Middle East, the Pentagon conceded Friday, denying the recent influx is aimed squarely at Iran.

Tension between Iran and the United States has ratcheted up in recent weeks, with Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are imposed on the Iranian oil industry to punish the country for its nuclear program.  U.S. officials have said Iran will be stopped if it tries to make good on its threat.

According to a Los Angeles Times report Friday, the U.S. military presence in Kuwait was expanded after Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who heads U.S. Central Command, said he needed additional forces to deal with Iran and other security threats in the region.

There are now about 15,000 troops in the country, a significant increase from the several thousand believed to be stationed there previously.  The newly arrived forces include two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit, the newspaper reported.

Two aircraft carrier groups have recently been dispatched to the Arabian Sea, with the USS Carl Vinson joining the USS John C. Stennis.  The USS Abraham Lincoln also is en route to the area.

The Pentagon, however, has denied the carrier movements are aimed at Iran.  A spokesman Friday said the troop buildup in Kuwait wasn’t either.

“I want to disabuse everyone of this notion that there some kind of quiet increase” of troop levels in Kuwait related to “contingency planning aimed at any one country,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said.

7.

SOLDIERS IN KUWAIT WILL ACT AS RESPONSE FORCE

By Michelle Tan

** 15,000 are staying in the tiny country, at least for now **

Army Times

January 14, 2012

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/01/army-kuwait-mobile-response-force-011412w/


Nearly 15,000 soldiers are now deployed to Kuwait -- including two brigade combat teams and a combat aviation brigade -- as the mission there evolves and the U.S. works to maintain a combat-capable presence in the unstable region.

“This is a larger contingent than we’ve typically had,” a senior Army official, who spoke on background, told Army Times.

“Working with the Kuwaitis to have a U.S. presence there is very helpful as far as general regional security is concerned,” the official said.

What remains to be seen is whether troop levels, particularly among the combat units, will remain in the long term.

In November, after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq was announced and officials were trying to determine whether some forces should remain in the region, the defense minister for Kuwait was quoted as saying the Arab state would only be used as a transit point for troops.

A military official told Army Times that it’s likely the U.S. will have a “continued presence in Kuwait, similar to before 2003.”

Details of that presence -- the number of troops and their makeup -- are still in negotiations with the Kuwaiti government, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

For years, Kuwait has been the primary hub for troops moving in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and most of the troops there were merely transiting through on their way to war or back home.

“What we had in the past, we had forces to provide security as we rotated units in and out of theater,” the official said.  “The forces [in Kuwait] at the time had the administrative function of in-processing and out-processing and the security of those forces.  In the past we didn’t leave combat units in Kuwait.”

Now, the U.S. has forces in Kuwait that are capable of responding to contingencies if needed, the official said.

“The mission of Kuwait at the beginning, it was a staging area, a [reception, staging, onward movement and integration] station,” the official said.  “Now it’s a platform, a final destination, so to speak, for contingency forces that can be used in the [Central Command] theater.”

As of Jan. 5, soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, of Fort Hood, Texas, and 1st BCT, 34th Infantry Division, of the Minnesota National Guard were the two primary brigade-sized units deployed to Kuwait.  In addition, the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade from the Maryland National Guard also is in Kuwait, moving there after serving as the last CAB in Iraq.

The 1st Cavalry Division brigade moved to Kuwait after serving the first half of its tour in Iraq and will remain in Kuwait until it completes a 12-month deployment this summer.

The brigade will serve as the mobile response force in the Central Command area of responsibility, 1st Lt. Kelly McManus, spokeswoman for 1st BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, wrote in an email to Army Times.

“We will operate with our standard equipment and in doing so provide a force that is both immediately available and augments a joint team that stands as a strong deterrent against those who wish to harm the U.S. and/or its allies,” McManus said.

In Kuwait, the soldiers will have the opportunity to train in one of the “most permissive training environments anywhere in the world and under some of the hardest conditions,” she said.

Activities will include training, exercises, and partnering with military allies in the region, she said.

The brigade’s mission changed twice before soldiers learned the brigade had been tapped to remain in Kuwait after the Iraq withdrawal was complete, McManus said.

“Upon receiving notification that we were going to continue our one-year deployment in Kuwait, the chain of command immediately reinstated R&R [rest and recuperation] at an accelerated rate in order to ensure that all soldiers will have the opportunity to take their two-week leave,” she said.  “In fact, we were allowed to send more than usually allowed home over the holidays.”

Soldiers from 1st BCT, 34th Infantry Division, were sent to Kuwait to perform a security force mission and provide security for U.S. troops during the withdrawal from Iraq.  The soldiers, who mobilized in May, are expected to return home in the spring.

The aviation soldiers, who were mobilized in August and are scheduled to come home this summer, will focus on training and partnership-building activities with countries in the region during their time in Kuwait.

“The initial purpose for them was to provide security as we were pulling back units in Iraq,” the senior Army official said.  “Now [all three units] are a contingency force, a strategic reserve.  They do provide a capable force that could be used elsewhere if necessary.”

In the near future, at least one more major unit is headed to Kuwait.

The New York Guard’s 27th Brigade Combat Team, which had been called to deploy to Afghanistan, will deploy to Kuwait instead.

Commanders in Afghanistan determined they did not need the brigade there because of the ongoing drawdown of troops.

About 1,800 soldiers from New York and about 300 soldiers from South Carolina will deploy, New York Guard officials said.  The soldiers are scheduled to mobilize later this month and train at Camp Shelby, Miss., before deploying to Kuwait.

While deployed, the soldiers will perform a security force mission.