I suspect all U.S. Generals in the Middle East are thinking “Thanks Trump, for putting a target on my back!” after Iranian Major General Qassam Soliemani, the head of the Quds Revolutionary Forces, was assassinated outside of Baghdad’s international airport by U.S. drone on the direct orders of President Trump.
As easy as it was for an American drone to blow up two vehicles in Soliemani’s convoy coming from the airport, it will not be difficult for Iranian forces to retaliate by targeting senior U.S. military and diplomatic officials. Senate Majority leader Mitchell McConnell’s comment that “our prayers are with U.S. diplomats and military in the region” is small consolation to those who will no doubt feel the brunt of Iranian ire over the assassination of one of the most popular leaders in Iran.
Should Wikileaks ever have another Chelsea Manning or Ed Snowden that will provide the world with documents that reveal the Trump administration’s deliberations on the decision to cataclysmically escalate the confrontation with Iran, a country of 80 million that has been under U.S. sanctions since the 1979 revolutionary overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, we will finally find out who in the administration supported the decision and who was against it.
My guess is that the U.S. military was against the assassination knowing that U.S. military forces will get the brunt of Iranian retaliation. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Damn right, this puts our troops at risk.” I think he realizes that he himself would be one of the first retaliatory targets.
I would guess that the CIA was for the assassination, the CIA’s whose officials can generally hide from public view. And it probably was a CIA drone, not a U.S. military drone that fired the missiles that assassinated Soleimani. In 2017, Trump gave the CIA the authority to again use assassin drones after it had been withdrawn by the Obama administration.
No matter who was for and against the assassination, when you look for targets for retaliation, there are many: oil fields in Saudi Arabia, oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, big US military installations in Qatar (Central Command forward), Bahrain (5th fleet) and Djibouti (naval and drone bases)
Here are 36 bases with US Military forces in 14 countries that are neighbors with Iran. Additionally, there is a U.S. Embassy in each of those 14 countries as well as in Lebanon that could be targets for retribution for the assassination of General Soleimani.
Sharing its western border with Iran is Afghanistan. There are approximately 14,000 US military in Afghanistan and reportedly twice as many civilian contractors. There are 17,000 NATO troops from 39 countries in Afghanistan. There are six active U.S. military bases. The three major bases are listed below.
Bagram Air Base
- Largest US military base in Afghanistan with US Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force troops located there. Medical and logistics facilities are located here as well as various types of aircraft and helicopters.
Shindand Air Base in Heart Province
- A shared base with US and NATO forces
Kandahar International Airport
- Joint base with NATO forces
There are over 7,000 U.S. military personnel based in Bahrain, and the U.S. has maintained a naval presence in the country since 1948. The U.S. 5th fleet is based in Bahrain and patrols an area of responsibility covering the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea, including the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb.
Naval Support Activity Bahrain
- U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
- Headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet.
- Close to Khalifa Bin Salman port, which is capable of berthing U.S. aircraft carriers. The U.S. has spent $580 million between 2010-2017 on expansion of the facility, and a total of $2 billion since establishing a presence. National Security Strategy Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
Shaikh Isa Air Base
- Recently improved with $45 million in U.S. funding. Hosts F-16s, F/A-18s, and P-3 aircraft.
- 12,467 ft runway. Muharraq Air Base (Navy)
- The Combined Task Force 53 aviation unit is based in Bahrain.
Part of Bahrain International Airport.
- In 2011, saw a monthly average of 1,600 tons of cargo and mail, and 3000 personnel in transit.
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U.S. military presence in Djibouti was established in 2003 with a formal agreement that provides access to the airport through Camp Lemonnier and the port facilities. Since that time, Djibouti has hosted the only combat-capable U.S. military base in Africa, until the construction of a U.S. drone base in Niger.
- Formerly a French Foreign Legion base.
- Hosts 4,000 U.S. troops. Tasked with fighting the Somalia-based Al Shabaab and conducting counter-terror operations in Somalia.
- Considered a Navy facility shares a runway with Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport.
- 10,335 ft runway.
- Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa operates out of Lemonnier.
- Operations using manned and unmanned aerial vehicles have been based out of Lemonnier, including missions into Yemen.
- China recently opened its first overseas military base adjacent to the Doraleh Port, and very close to Camp Lemonnier. It is believed China will deploy around 1,000 personnel. In May 2017, China began constructing a 330+ meter pier to support its naval vessels.
The U.S. military does not maintain combat basing in Egypt, despite the historically robust military cooperation between the countries since the conclusion of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The only U.S. military facility in Egypt conducts medical research.
Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3)
- Based in Cairo.
- Facilities for conducting infections disease research and prevention.
- Runs syndrome, pathogen, and vector surveillance networks in Egypt and the region.
- Largest DoD overseas laboratory with biosafety level 3 bio-containment space.
Since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, the U.S. has not maintained permanent facilities in Iraq. As the U.S. presence in Iraq has evolved during the conduct of Operation Inherent Resolve, the primary U.S. presence appears to be located at Al Asad Air Base.
Al Asad Air Base
- Task Force Lion (aka Task Force Al Asad) operates out of Al Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western Anbar Province. Task Force Lion advises, assists and “enables” the Iraqi military. Has elements of four of the armed services.
- Colloquially known as “Camp Cupcake” during the Iraq war, due to the prominent amenities. Many of these amenities are no longer available.
- Two 13,124 foot runways.
- Some Danish military personnel part of training mission for the Iraqi Security Forces.
The U.S. has long maintained a security relationship with Israel, and in recent years has partnered to develop systems like the Iron Dome air defense system. Ships of the U.S. 6th fleet frequently make port visits to Haifa, but the building of U.S. facilities in Israel is new. U.S. deployments to Israel are small and intended to support anti-ballistic missile emplacements.
Dimona Radar Facility
- AN/TPY-2 Radar system, a type of X-Band Radar.
- Used to spot potential incoming ballistic missiles from Iran.
Mashabim Air Base / Bisl’a Aerial Defense School
- Run by EUCOM.
- Contains a Living Facility which houses 40 soldiers serving the missile defense mission.
The U.S. presence in Jordan has expanded with the evolution of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS, with forces located at Muwaffaq Salti Air Base. Publicly available commercial satellite imagery indicates the presence of potential U.S. reaper drones at other bases in Jordan, but this is not acknowledged by the United States. U.S. military cooperation with Jordan is close. Most recently, U.S. troops participated in the “Eager Lion” exercises, involving several thousand U.S. Marines training alongside Jordanian troops.
Muwaffaq Salti Air Base (Azraq)
- U.S. allocated $143 million for upgrades and expansion in 2018.
- The pace of operations against ISIS has strained physical capacity of the base. Limited ramp space restricts operations, and facilities for handling cargo and personnel are limited as well.
- Hosts multiple coalition partners, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
- Two runways, 9,015 ft and 9,777 ft.
The U.S. has maintained a Defense Cooperation Agreement with Kuwait since 1991 Persian Gulf War. As such, Kuwait holds major non-NATO U.S. ally status. Since 2011, troops garrisoned in Kuwait are primarily intended to support Operation Spartan Shield, a mission to “deter regional aggression and stabilize countries within the region.” The military currently maintains a force of 2,200 MRAPs in Kuwait.
Ali Al Salem Air Base
- Two 9,805 ft runways.
- 386th Air Expeditionary Wing is a primary occupant, operating C-17 and C-130 cargo aircraft.
- Base operates as a way station for troops.
- Serves as U.S. HQ in Kuwait.
- Built by the Kuwaiti government at a cost of $200 million to replace temporary basing structure originally used since the Gulf War.
- Features a Joint Military Mail Terminal.
- Broke ground on $3.7 million living facilities expansion in 2017.
- Has precision approach radar capability, allowing for low visibility landings.
- 5,215 ft runway.
- U.S. Army Facility.
- Shares space with Kuwait Naval Base.
- For the 2003 Iraq invasion, Navy Seabees constructed a temporary pier, known as an elevated causeway system modular (ELCAS/M), to support the offloading of equipment.
The U.S. maintains an ability to use Omani bases through the Oman Facilities Access Agreement, originally signed in 1980, and most recently renewed in 2010. This accord made Oman the first country among the Persian Gulf States to explicitly partner militarily with the U.S. According to the agreement, the U.S. can request access to these facilities in advance for a specified purpose. Oman has allowed 5,000 aircraft overflights, 600 landings, and 80 port calls annually. During the early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (in late 2001), the U.S. relied considerably on Omani air bases. However, in subsequent years, U.S. presence in Oman has dwindled significantly.
Muscat International Airport
- Formerly known as Seeb Air Base.
- Usable under the Facilities Access Agreement.
- Two runways recently extended to 13,123 ft.
- War reserve materiel stored at this location.
- 13,123 foot runway.
- War reserve material stored at this location.
Al-Musannah Air Base
- Airlift apron designed for C-5 and C-130 aircraft.
- War reserve materiel stored at this location.
Port of Duqm
- The recently opened British-Omani Duqm Naval Dockyard was designed with the intent of hosting ships from friendly nations for repair and maintenance.
- Recently expanded facilities at Duqm have allowed for the repair and maintenance of U.S. Navy vessels.
- Capable of supporting U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines.
- Duqm is attracting the interest of many countries, including India, Iran, the U.K., the U.S., and China.
Port of Salalah
- Largest port in Oman.
- The Defense Logistics Agency operated a recently opened material processing center providing material transshipment, short-term storage and delivery functions for visiting U.S. Navy vessels and other U.S. customers in the U.S. Central Command AOR.
Qatar hosts approximately 10,000 U.S. service personnel, mostly at Al Udeid Air Base. Since the 1990s, Qatari base construction strategy has been deliberately intended to attract the United States to its facilities. As the U.S. withdrew the majority of its forces from Saudi Arabia in 2003 following the initial invasion of Iraq, basing in Qatar allowed for the permanent redeployment of those assets. The U.S. has relied heavily on its basing in Qatar to conduct the counter-ISIS military mission, Operation Inherent Resolve.
Al Udeid Air Base
- Biggest U.S. base in the Middle East.
- Home to U.S. Combined Air Operations Center, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command Central Forward, and CENTCOM Forward HQ.
- Built in 1996 at a cost of $1 billion before Qatar had an air force and a total of $4 billion to fund the base since.
- Qatar is currently expanding the base with 200 additional housing units.
- The existence of the Al Udeid air base allowed for the relocation of U.S. assets previously stationed at Prince Sultan Airbase, Saudi Arabia in 2003. This move addressed a common grievance against the U.S. amongst Muslim populations.
- Two 12,000+ foot runways,78 capable of supporting all aircraft in the U.S. arsenal.
Camp As Sayliyah
- An Army operated facility that can store joint equipment.
- Serves as a prepositioning point for one brigade’s worth of armored equipment.
- Features a large number of climate-controlled warehouse units.
- Also featured a Stryker Damage Repair facility which repaired hundreds of Stryker vehicles damaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan until the repair facility’s closure in 2014.
The U.S. withdrew the vast majority of its forces in 2003, as the invasion of Iraq eliminated the need for a troop presence in Saudi Arabia. Today, many of the American military personnel still in Saudi Arabia are part of the U.S. Military Training Mission, and do not provide an operational combat capability. Undoubtedly, USMTM personnel travel and work at different Saudi bases to complete their mission, but the primary “basing” point is Eskan Village near Riyadh.
- Features fully furnished villas for U.S. personnel.
- Serves as a housing facility for U.S. military personnel, primarily those assigned to the U.S. Military Training Mission.
- Also hosts Army personnel of the Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program and Ministry of the Interior Military Assistance Group.
- Base not intended for combat operations. Base security provided by 341st Military Police Company.
The U.S. withdrew from its 22 bases in Syria in October 2019 but has returned to six of them in northeast Syria. U.S. forces in Syria are primarily guarding Syrian oil facilities.
Incirlik Air Base
- U.S. stores upwards of 50 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs at Incirlik.
- Construction on the base started by the U.S. in 1951.
- Base has been used heavily for operations against ISIS, but U.S. was denied sortie rights for the 2003 Iraq invasion.
- 10,000 foot runway.
- In the wake of the 2016 coup attempt, the Turkish Government cut power to the air base for several days and closed the airspace around the base.
- Approximately 2,500 U.S. military personnel based at Incirlik.
Izmir Air Station
- Located adjacent to Çiğli air base, a Turkish-run base.
- Home of 425th Air Base squadron, a detachment of the 39th Air Base Wing out of Incirlik Air Base.
- Administers the Çiğli AB Loan Agreement.
- Supports numerous U.S./NATO missions in the Izmir Area, including NATO Allied Land Command Headquarters.
United Arab Emirates
The U.S. maintains approximately 5,000 personnel in the UAE under a defense cooperation agreement. The security relationship between the U.S. and UAE is robust, and has featured combat operations in Afghanistan in which UAE aircraft provided close air support to American troops on the ground.
Al Dhafra Air Base
- U.S. presence at this base not publicly acknowledged until 2017.
- Host the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, including such aircraft as the F-22 Raptor, KC-10, RQ-4 Global Hawk, E-3 Sentry, and U-2 Dragon Lady.
- Two 12,012 foot runways.
- An estimated 3,500 U.S. personnel stationed in 2015,100 upwards of 3,800 in 2016.
- Busiest U.S. base in the world for surveillance flights.
- Hosts a joint Air Warfare Center used by the U.S. to train personnel from multiple countries in aspects of combat and interoperable missions.
Port of Jebel Ali
- Busiest U.S. Navy port of call.
- Largest manmade deep-water harbor in the world.
- Capable of berthing U.S. aircraft carriers.
- No ships supported or permanently based, and U.S. Navy ships do not take priority over commercial vessels.
Fujairah Naval Base
- Located on the outside of the Persian Gulf, before crossing the Strait of Hormuz.
- Offers a logistical “land link” to Jebel Ali should the Strait of Hormuz be closed.