The DoD has signed off on a plan to deploy two fighter squadrons, an Air Expeditionary Wing, two Patriot missile batteries, and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System to Saudi Arabia. To make its point, the Air Force recently posted pictures of two B-1 Bombers on a flight to Prince Sultan Air Base; they later revealed it was practice for rapid deployment. This is all part of a bigger “buildup” of troops in Saudi Arabia to bolster the nation against a hostile Iran. The total number of troops set to deploy has reached 3,000, and is likely to increase.
As military focus is split between buffing up security in Europe, and balancing precarious tensions in the Middle East, there could be significant deployments on the horizon.
On September 23, President Donald Trump signed a declaration with Polish President Andrzej Duda to increase American military presence in Poland. Currently there are around 4,500 rotating troops in the European nation; this number, per the declaration, will grow by 1,000 in the near future.
This personnel increase comes amidst Duda’s concern over Russian military activity. Due to Poland’s small NATO presence, and the somewhat-recent conflicts in Ukraine, Duda has been after a permanent U.S. military presence — even setting aside $2 billion for the establishment of an American base.
Increasing our influence in Poland could warrant a response from Russia, who will likely increase their border presence as well.
With ever-changing, hopefully non-violent conflict in Europe, there is still war waging in the Middle East.
Tensions With Iran Near Breaking Point
According to U.S. Central Command, we currently have around 60,000-70,000 troops in the Middle East. The Department of Defense announced last week that more are being sent to Saudi Arabia following the attacks at the Abqaiq oil facility, and an old field in Khurais.
The oil processing facility in Abqaiq is the world’s largest. Saudi officials are pointing fingers at Iran, who actively denies responsibility for the attacks.
Tensions with Iran have been increasing since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, and if they continue to escalate, so will our Middle Eastern military presence. As it is, we are set to send 1,500 additional soldiers in May 2020. If there are any direct attacks on U.S. soldiers by Iran, the Pentagon is prepared to send 120,000 more.
U.S. Military Presence in the Middle East
With data from Axios as recent as September 21, here are the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East, country by country.
- Afghanistan: 14,000 (plus 8,000 NATO)
- Bahrain: 7,000, for the security of the Persian Gulf
- Iraq: 5,200 as of January, to combat ISIS
- Jordan: 2,795, to combat ISIS
- Kuwait: Over 13,000, primarily due to tensions with Iran. Other than Japan, Germany, and South Korea, this is our greatest foreign presence
- Oman: A few hundred, to combat ISIS
- Qatar: 13,000, for combating regional terrorism
- Saudi Arabia: Mostly none since 9/11, but currently sending 500-600 to defend against Iran and assist in Yemen
- Syria: 2,000, as they are still embattled in a bloody civil war
- Turkey: Unknown for security reasons
- United Arab Emirates: 5,000
North Korea, and the Future of Overseas Deployments
With shifting concerns about Russia and Ukraine, the future of our military presence in Europe is uncertain. We are long established in Germany, and continue to maintain a small presence in countries like Italy and Spain. But conflicts in both the Middle East and North Korea are taking precedence.
Currently, South Korea hosts around 30,000 U.S. troops, and predicting actions from North Korea proves to be nearly impossible. A recent summit held in New York between President Trump and President Moon of S. Korea yielded talks about money and executive strategy.
North Korea has said it is willing to restart nuclear negotiations with the U.S., an important step to trying to foster some kind of peace with the stone-walled nation. There was also discussion of implementing a cost-sharing deal between the U.S. and S. Korea to help pay for our military presence there.
As our strong presence in the Middle East may become even stronger, we can only hope the tides are turning to more fruitful negotiations with N. Korea.
If your loved one is deployed or about to be, here are some tips on getting through it. Our hearts go out to the families of deployed soldiers — thank you for the sacrifices you make each day for this country.