US military has large force arrayed across Mideast
Having expanded its air war against Islamic State jihadists into Syria, the US military can draw on a vast arsenal of aircraft, troops and hardware across the Middle East.
Washington: Having expanded its air war against Islamic State jihadists into Syria, the US military can draw on a vast arsenal of aircraft, troops and hardware across the Middle East.
Here are the basic facts on the American military presence in the region and the strikes carried out so far, according to the Pentagon and defense analysts:There are roughly 35,000 US troops deployed in the Middle East outside Iraq, including about 15,000 in Kuwait, 7,500 in Qatar, 6,000 in Bahrain, 5,000 in the United Arab Emirates and 1,000 in Jordan. There are also reportedly teams of CIA officers in Jordan helping train Syrian rebel forces along with other Western and Arab intelligence agents.There will soon be 1,600 US troops deployed in Iraq, including an additional 475 personnel ordered in by President Barack Obama this month.
Roughly 600 troops in the US contingent are serving as "advisers" to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, coordinating air raids. Some are based at joint operation centers in Baghdad and in northern Iraq.
The remaining US forces mostly are devoted to securing the US embassy and its diplomats. Estimates vary but the United States can draw on dozens of aircraft stationed in the region, including F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighter jets, F-22 stealth Raptors, armed Reaper drones, B-1 bombers, attack helicopters, various surveillance aircraft and aerial refueling tankers.
The F/A-18 Super Hornets are flying off of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Gulf and warplanes will soon start flying out of Arbil airfield in northern Iraq`s Kurdish region.
In addition, US warships in the Gulf and elsewhere are equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles that can travel at subsonic speeds and hit a target more than 1,500 miles (2,500 kilometers) away.US aircraft bombing IS militants in Iraq are reportedly flying out of al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Ali al-Salem Air Base in Kuwait and al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which is also home to a vital US air combat command center for the region.
At the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in Qatar, US officers oversee airspace authority, air defenses and electronic warfare in 20 regional countries. The Qatar air base, with a 15,000-foot runway and a significant supply of munitions, is a crucial logistical hub.
US F-16 fighter jets also have been stationed in Jordan since last year and the Pentagon has basing agreements with Oman. In addition, the US military can use a base in Diego Garcia for B-52, B-1 and B-2 flights.
In southern Turkey, US crews have long operated out of Incirlik and about 1,500 airmen are stationed there. Some media reports say the United States is flying surveillance planes out of the base but that Ankara is unwilling to approve bombing missions. Since August 8, there have been 190 US air strikes carried out in Iraq, from south of Baghdad to Haditha dam in the west to Kurdish areas in the north.
Many of the strikes targeted jihadists in the country`s north fighting for control of the strategic Mosul dam, according to Central Command.
The strikes around Mosul helped Iraqi and Kurdish troops retake the dam, which the IS jihadists briefly held, but fighting has nevertheless raged on in the area.
After Mosul, the most frequent targeted area during the first month of strikes was around Arbil. Other strikes focused on another massive dam, near Haditha in the west, a crucial part of Iraq`s infrastructure.