US officials claim that they will withdraw their occupation troops from Iraq as soon as the US-recruited and trained Iraqi army is capable of fighting and defeating the anti-occupation resistance movement. But the Pentagon is spending millions of dollars on creating six "enduring" bases in Iraq.
The April 3 Christian Science Monitor reported that the Pentagon "has already spent [US]$1 billion or more" on its bases in Iraq, "outfitting some with underground bunkers and other characteristics of long-term bases".
The Monitor noted that when US President George Bush "told the press on March 21 it will be decided by 'future presidents and future governments of Iraq' when there will be no American forces in Iraq, his words intensified speculation that several of the approximately 75 bases in Iraq will remain occupied by US forces for an extended period".
The April 2 British Independent daily reported that it had been told by Major Joseph Breasseale, a senior spokesperson for the US-led coalition forces' headquarters in Iraq, that the "current plan is to reduce the coalition footprint into six consolidation bases — four of which are US". Breasseale said that Britain was the most likely candidate to use the other two "consolidated" bases.
The Independent went on to report: "The Pentagon says it has already reduced the number of US bases from 110 a year ago to a current total of around 75. But at the same time it is expanding a number of vast, highly defended bases, some in the desert away from large population areas. More than $280m (£160m) has already been spent on building up Al Asad air base, Balad air base, Camp Taji and Tallil air base, and the Bush administration has this year requested another $175m to enlarge them. These bases, which currently house more than 55,000 troops, have their own bus routes, pizza restaurants and supermarkets."
A University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll conducted March 1-6 found that 71% of US residents are opposed to the US having permanent military bases in Iraq. Comparing results of this US poll with one taken in Iraq in January, PIPA reported that "Americans and Iraqis have a striking level of agreement in their perception that the US plans to keep US troops in Iraq permanently and in their opposition to this idea".
Zoltan Grossman, a geographer at Evergreen State College in Washington, told the April 2 Independent: "After every US military intervention since 1990 the Pentagon has left behind clusters of new bases in areas where it never before had a foothold. The new string of bases stretch from Kosovo and adjacent Balkan states, to Iraq and other Persian Gulf states, into Afghanistan and other central Asian states ... The only two obstacles to a geographically contiguous US sphere of influence are Iran and Syria."
The Independent concluded its report by observing that US government officials "repeatedly say the timetable [for withdrawal of US troops] is dependent upon success in training Iraqi forces. Progress in this area has been slow; in February the Pentagon admitted the only Iraqi battalion judged capable of fighting without US support had been downgraded, requiring it to fight with American troops."
The March 29 London Financial Times provided an example of how unreliable the puppet Iraqi army is. Citing comments from members of this army deployed with US troops in the Euphrates Valley town of Hit, the FT reported: "One weary veteran says two-thirds of his unit have gone absent without leave since it arrived in this western Iraqi town in September — he too would have left if there were any jobs at home and his meagre pay were not the only way to support his family. 'There is no sense of respect in this army', adds a young sergeant, and the recruits piled into dilapidated bunk beds nod approval.
"'No one enlisted out of nationalism or principles. They signed up for the money', says one young officer ...
"One Iraqi officer says local leaders have suggested US and Iraqi forces withdraw and the community be allowed to police itself — a strategy he endorses.
"Barring that, he says, the only way a conventional military force can handle insurgents is by doing what the Iraqi military has done in the past — inflict wholesale collective punishment on the communities that shelter them."
From Green Left Weekly, April 12, 2006.
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