Iraq and Persian Gulf

On the eve of the invaasion of Iraq, there were roughly 200,000 US troops on the borders and within the country. Prior to this buildup, the US had roughly 45,000 troops in the region, including one aircraft carrier battle group, an amphibious ready group, a brigade from the Third Infantry Division in Kuwait, several hundred combat and support aircraft, and a Marine expeditionary unit. Virtually all ground forces were staging through Kuwait though there was a small contingent of troops in Saudi Arabia. Roughly 15,000 Marines were quietly inserted into Jordan. Prior to the invasion, five aircraft carriers, seven amphibious assault carriers, and nearly 2,000 strike and support aircraft were sent to the Gulf. Aircraft were based at Incirlik in Turkey, Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, Ali al-Salem and al-Jaber in Kuwait, Thumrait and Seeb International Airport in Oman, al-Udeid in Qatar, al-Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Patriot missile batteries were deployed to Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. US forces are currently leaving Incirlik, and the majority of the forces at Prince Sultan Air Base are relocating ot al-Udeid in Qatar. Roughly 160,000 US troops occupy Iraq.

Horn of Africa

In November 2002, the Department of Defense announced that forces would be deployed to Djibouti as part of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The unit defines the Horn of Africa as the areas out to highwater mark of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Suda, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen. This deployment initially consisted of roughly 1,300 personnel including Special Forces, a command and control element, logistical support and a Navy command ship that would serve as the command location for the Task Force facilities that had been built at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. By May 2003, the Task Force had grown to around 1,900 personnel operations had shifted from the ship to Camp Lemonier. Operations in the Horn of Africa predate the establishment of CJTF-HOA. On November 4, 2002, an unmanned CIA Predator drone fired a missile at a vehicle carrying a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden who was believed to have been involved with the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Six were killed. Djibouti is a staging area for intelligence and covert operations in other states such as Sudan or Yemen. Predator drones have a range of 460 miles.


Bagram Air Base is headquarters to 11,500 coalition forces, 8,500 of whom are US soldiers. Most stay withn Afghanistan, though an uncertain number are assigned on occasional tours in Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. US ground forces are comprised of roughly 6,000 soldiers, primarily from the Eighty-Second Airborne Division and Special Forces units. These highly mobile forces, supported by helicopter units, operate throughout Afghanistan, including Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad, Khost and Herat, and are directed from Kandahar. Strike aircraft, including A-10 Warthogs, F-15 Eagles and F-16 Falcons, are staging from Bagram, Manas in Kyrgyzstan and Jacobabad in Pakistan. These airfields can also handle large cargo and aerial refueling aircraft. Several unmanned aerial vehicles operate from Jacobabad, according to satellite imagery. Roughly 1,000 US troops are based in Uzbekistan, spread disparately among three bases, Karshi-Khanabad, Chirchik and Tuzel. The CIA’s unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft, armed with Hellfire missiles, began operating in late 2000 out of Uzbekistan.


In January 2002, the US and the Philippines began a joint military exercise named Balikatan (“shouldering the load together”) 2002-1. US Special Forces were not to play an offensive role, but provide training and advice during operations against Abu Sayyaf on the islands of Zamboanga and Basilan. Officially, Balikatan 2002-1 ended in June or July 2002, but the death of a Special Forces soldier on October 2 in a bombing near a Philippines military base indicates that US troops had not departed the country following the conclusion of the operation. In February 2003, the Department of Defense announced that the US and the Philippines had agreed to initiate combined operations against Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu archipelago. Roughly 1,100 US soldiers, headed by Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines made up of 350 Special Forces personnel, would be deployed to assist the Filipino army. The announcement indicated that 2,500 Marines and nearly 2,000 sailors from the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group would also be made available if needed. US deployment to the Philippines may be laying the groundwork for permanent US basing in the country, though constitutional constraints currently prevent the Filipino government from making such a commitment. Australian press reports in mid-May 2003 indicate that the Australian and US governments may be exploring options for basing US forces in that country.

How to cite this article:

"The US Military," Middle East Report 227 (Summer 2003).

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