Washington: The United States is planning a significant military presence of 13,500 troops in Kuwait to give it the flexibility to respond to sudden conflicts in the region as Iraq adjusts to the withdrawal of American combat forces and the world nervously eyes Iran, according to a congressional report.
The study by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee examined the US relationship with the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman -- against a fast-moving backdrop. In just the last two days, Saudi Arabia`s ruler named Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz as the country`s new crown prince after last week`s death of Prince Nayef, and Kuwait`s government suspended parliament for a month over an internal political feud.
The latest developments inject even more uncertainty as the Middle East deals with the demands of the Arab Spring, the end to US combat operations in Iraq at the end of 2011 and fears of Iran`s nuclear programme.
"Home to more than half of the world`s oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas, the stability of the Persian Gulf is critical to the global economy," the report said. "However, the region faces a myriad of political and security challenges, from the Iranian nuclear programme to the threat of terrorism to the political crisis in Bahrain."
The report obtained by The Associated Press in advance of today`s release provided precise numbers on US forces in Kuwait, a presence that Pentagon officials have only acknowledged on condition of anonymity.
Currently, there are about 15,000 US forces in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Base and Camp Buehring, giving the United States staging hubs, training ranges and locations to provide logistical support. The report said the number of troops is likely to drop to 13,500.