Saturday, February 19, 2011

U.S.-Bahrain Relations

U.S. relations with Bahrain have been focused on defense over the past decade, but
relations are broadening on economic issues and political reform.
Defense Cooperation. In large part to keep powerful neighbors in check, Bahrain
has long linked its security to the United States. February 1998 marked the 50th
anniversary of a U.S. naval command presence in Bahrain; MIDEASTFOR (U.S. Middle
East Force), its successor, NAVCENT (naval component of U.S. Central Command), and
the Fifth Fleet (reconstituted in June 1995) have been headquartered there. The Fifth
Fleet headquarters is a command facility that, after a pending expansion, will cover over 100 acres. About 3,000 U.S. personnel, mostly Navy (but from several different
commands) work there; fewer than half live on the compound. Some smaller U.S. ships
(minesweepers) are docked there, but the port facility is too shallow to handle aircraft carriers. The headquarters currently coordinates the operations of over 30 U.S. warships performing support missions for U.S. operations in Iraq war (securing Iraqi oil platforms) and anti-terrorism missions to prevent the seaborne movement of Al Qaeda or other terrorists, as well as arms or weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related technology, across the Arabian Sea. Most of these U.S. operations are in partnership with ships from nations contributing to the Iraq war (Britain, Italy, Australia, Canada, and Singapore) and the U.S.-led stabilization operations in Afghanistan (including ships from Germany, France, and Pakistan). According to U.S. commanders in Bahrain, the maritime mission is increasingly expanding into maritime narcotics interdiction as well. During the 1990s, the U.S.-led Multinational Interdiction Force (MIF), which enforced a U.N. embargo on Iraq, was run out of the headquarters.

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