Little-Known US Access To Overseas Bases Cited
WASHINGTON — THE United States military has long had a presence in far corners of the globe.
Under agreements with local governments, US forces are based on, or have access to, facilities not only in familiar places such as Germany, Britain, and Japan, but also in many that are little-known - for example, the Maldives and the Seychelles, both island nations in the Indian Ocean.
The Pentagon's overseas relationships are a little more widespread than one might think. According to a new congressional report, the US deploys troops, or has agreements to deploy troops, in some 50 foreign countries.
Most of the approximately 100 major American bases are on the soil of close allies. Germany, for instance, is host to 38 large US installations, though that number may soon get smaller in the post-cold-war era. Japan is host to 14 American bases.
Some of the smaller or more informal arrangements, however, are less well-known. The Republic of Maldives, for example, just happens to be convenient to the Persian Gulf.
According to the "Global Outreach" study by the House Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, the Maldives allowed US military aircraft to transit through its airports during the Gulf war; it offered naval access as well.
The US is trying to maintain this cooperation, according to the report.
The Republic of Seychelles is another nation comprised of several Indian Ocean islands, but it is closer to the east coast of Africa. Governed since 1977 by a leader who took power in a military coup, the Seychelles has been most noticed in the West lately for a bizarre incident in 1982, when it was invaded by a contingent of foreign mercenaries.
According to the House report, the Seychelles hosts a US Air Force tracking and telemetry station and allows port calls by Navy ships.
Among other countries, Djibouti, in Africa, also allows port calls as well as air access. And Mauritius allows support flights from the big US installations on the British-controlled island of Diego Garcia.
The US is said to be seeking ship-repair facilities in Indonesia.
Two years ago, Papua New Guinea signed a memorandum of understanding with the US on combined military activities. It said it would host a US base, according to the House report.
In what must be among the most coveted postings in the US military, Navy and Air Force underwater research and missile tracking facilities are based on the Bahamas. Likewise, Bermuda has a space tracking radar and a major US Navy air station.
While it is hard to hide a large US military presence, information on the smaller and more informal access agreements is often hard to come by, with much of it classified to keep local governments from being embarrassed. The House report says its information all comes from unclassified sources.
In its more general findings, the report says there are almost 1 million Americans overseas on Pentagon business. But, as it notes, "support has increased for cutting US foreign troop deployments and facilities." Recently, the House voted to cut US strength in Europe to 100,000.
At the same time that US forces in Europe are being drawn down, they are rapidly expanding in the Middle East, notes the study.
There now are 23,000 US personnel in the region with no plans to return, 10 times more than there were before Desert Storm. About two-thirds of that figure, however, is accounted for, not by troops on land, but by Marine and Navy personnel afloat.
Almost two-thirds of the governments that the US has agreements with are "antidemocratic," says the study.
Under that label it includes Kuwait and a number of US Gulf allies, as they are hereditary monarchies with limited political participation.