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United States plans post-Iraq Persian Gulf troop build-up

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(File photo, Yasser al-Zayyat/AFP)

As U.S. troops leave Iraq this fall, Washington plans to beef up its already considerable troop presence in the wider Persian Gulf region, with an eye to deterring Iranian aggression or to be able to respond to a collapse of Iraqi security, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The plans currently being drawn up by the Pentagon "could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran," according to the New York Times' Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers. In addition, Washington is  "considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region."

The United States already has some 40,000 troops stationed at bases in the Persian Gulf outside of Iraq, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pointedly noted last week. That includes some "23,000 American troops in Kuwait, 7,500 in Qatar, 5,000 in Bahrain and nearly 3,000 in the United Arab Emirates," Panetta told the Washington Post's Walter Pincus October 23.

That number is on top of the approximately 39,000 American troops currently in Iraq whom President Obama announced this month will be withdrawn by the end of the year, as well as approximately 100,000 U.S. troops currently deployed to Afghanistan.

"We will always have a force that will be present and that will deal with any threats from Iran," Panetta told Pincus last week.

It is indeed "with an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran," that the Obama administration is also "seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman," Shanker and Myers reported. "While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new 'security architecture for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense."

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