U.S. to Move Some Military Equipment From Saudi Arabia to Qatar
The United States will transfer some equipment out of Prince Sultan military base in Saudi Arabia to Qatar, but will remain in Saudi Arabia, a Pentagon spokesman said, denying that the move was linked to possible military action against Iraq.
"We are moving some military equipment from one location to another, as we do frequently," said Colonel Rick Thomas, spokesman at the Central Command in Tampa, Florida, noting that reports of a "partial move" out of the Prince Sultan base are inaccurate.
According to the British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday, the US Air Force has begun preparations to move its Gulf headquarters from Saudi Arabia to al-Udeid air base in Qatar in order "to bypass Saudi objections to military action against Iraq."
The newspaper quoted Saudi analysts and businessmen "involved in the relocation" as sources.
One senior executive of a Saudi contracting firm told the newspaper that several firms "had been invited to prepare bids to move computers and electronics" from the high-tech command centre at Prince Sultan air force base. "It is clear this is not related to Iraq or leaving Saudi Arabia; this is not a major relocation," emphasized Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan.
Judith Kipper, a specialist on Mideast affairs at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, said that Washington wants to diversify its military installations as well as "keep a low profile, particularly in Saudi Arabia."
The move was planned even before the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, Kipper added.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported the United States has begun re-thinking whether it should maintain its presence in the Saudi Kingdom. Advanced by escalated security fears since the September 11 attacks on its cities as well as by restrictions the Saudi government has imposed on American military operations, U.S. commanders are re-examining their long time stay in Saudi Arabia.
According to the New York Times report from mid-March, citing senior US military officials, the Central Command, which serves as headquarters for Middle East operations, has prepared an extensive possible plan to move forces out of Saudi Arabia. (Albawaba.com)