It described the work as an “emergency”, but the army spoke of a test for landing shipments from the Saudi port of Yanbu, which is an important line for transporting oil.
The report stated that using the port of Yanbu and a military base in Tabuk and Taif along the Red Sea, would give the US military options along the sea crossing, which is under constant attacks from the Houthi group in Yemen.
But the announcement comes at a time when US-Saudi relations are facing tensions in the early days of the Joseph Biden administration as a result of the murder of “Washington Post” journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 in Istanbul and the ongoing war in Yemen.
The agency noted that the deployment of US forces, “even if it was temporary, in the Kingdom may ignite anger, especially since Saudi Arabia is the center of the birth of Islam in Mecca and Medina.”
The spokesman for the Central Command, Captain Bill Urban, said that the assessment of the places has been taking place for a year, and it was the result of the attacks on Saudi oil installations in September 2019. The United States and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran, which denied responsibility for the attacks that took place by missiles and drones Although these appear to be Iranian made.
Urban said: “These are wise military plans that allow access to conditional ports in the event of emergency, and are not provocative in any way, nor are they an expansion of the American presence in the region or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular.”
Central Command Commander General Frank MacKenzie visited Yanbu on Monday. The Wall Street Journal and Defense One, accompanied by McKinsey, were the first to publish the news about the US plans. Saudi officials declined to comment on Tuesday on the reports.
Saudi Arabia has taken care of fixing the sites and is thinking more, according to Urban. In Tabuk, there is King Faisal Air Base, while Taif is the center of King Fahd Base.
The agency indicated that the Arab Gulf states are the headquarters of several US military bases, which came as a result of the first Gulf War in 1991, in which American forces played a role in expelling the Iraqi regime forces from Kuwait. And then the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Central Central Command has forward headquarters in Qatar. The US Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. Kuwait hosts the headquarters of the US Central Army, while the United Arab Emirates receives US pilots and sailors. These sites do not include US forces in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Former President Donald Trump sent troops to Saudi Arabia after the attacks on oil facilities in 2019. There are about 2,500 American soldiers with Patriot batteries at Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh. These new sites are in addition to what General McKinsey described before Congress as a “Western Sustainability Network,” a new logistics system designed to avoid marine choke points, said Becca Wasser, a fellow at the Washington-based New American Security Center.
And those locations where there will be no permanent forces will allow the US forces to reduce their forces through flexibility. She added, “If we try to have a flexible position in which we are not linked to permanent bases, you need to support this with a logistical network through which you can transport soldiers and weapons when you need them.”
These contingency plans exist in the Middle East, such as the agreement that allows US forces to use military bases in Oman in specific circumstances. But the western coast of Saudi Arabia gives America a distance from Iran, which has invested heavily in ballistic missiles.
The journalists who accompanied McKenzie said that the Gulf “will be disputed waters in light of a war scenario with Iran, and for this you are looking for places that can move your forces and enter the theater of war away from a disputed area.”
The agency said that for Iran, additional military bases will increase its doubts about US plans in light of the current tension after Trump’s exit from the nuclear agreement in 2018.