The United States’ worldwide military posture provides valuable information how the US plans to address present and future threats. The US redeployment from the European theater marks the end of the Cold War strategy of protecting Europe from the threat of the now-defunct USSR. The shift of American forces to the East – Central Asia and the Middle East, and South – the Horn of Africa, reflects the new areas of concern for the United States.
In the Asia Times, Ramtanu Maitra documents the proliferation of US bases in Central Asia, and posits the purposes are to surround Iran (a point made here last December), secure the US’s position in “The Great Game” (the struggle for strategic positioning in Central Asia), and secure US access to regional resources (OIL!). The United States is preparing permanent basing in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhistan and Pakistan (collectively referred to as ‘the ‘Stans’), as well as in the Persian Gulf region:
Other recent developments cohere with a US Air Force strategy to expand its operational scope across Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea region – with its vital oil reserves and natural resources: Central Asia, all of Iran, the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the northern Arabian Sea up to Yemen’s Socotra Islands. This may also provide the US a commanding position in relation to Pakistan, India and the western fringes of China.
The base set up at Manas outside Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan – where, according to Central Asian reports, about 3,000 US troops are based – looks to be part of the same military pattern. It embodies a major commitment to maintain not just air operations over Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, but also a robust military presence in the region well after the war.
Prior to setting up the Manas Air Base, the US paid off the Uzbek government handsomely to set up an air base in Qarshi Hanabad. Qarshi Hanabad holds about 1,500 US soldiers, and agreements have been made for the use of Tajik and Kazakh airfields for military operations. Even neutral Turkmenistan has granted permission for military overflights. Ostensibly, the leaders of these Central Asian nations are providing military facilities to the US to help them eradicate the Islamic and other sorts of terrorists that threaten their nations.
These developments, particularly setting up bases in Manas and Qarshi Hanabad, are not an attempt by the US to find an exit strategy for Afghanistan, but the opposite: establishing a military presence.
Mr. Maitra’s article, as well as Austin Bay’s recent account of the importance of the massive Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, falls directly in line with the recently released National Defense Strategy of The United States of America, a forward looking strategy to confront the new threats of the 21
In the STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES section:
2. SECURE STRATEGIC ACCESS AND RETAIN GLOBAL FREEDOM OF ACTION
The United States cannot influence that which it cannot reach. Securing strategic access to key regions, lines of communication, and the global commons:
• Promotes the security and prosperity of the United States;
• Ensures freedom of action;
• Helps secure our partners; and
• Helps protect the integrity of the international economic system.
1. ACTIVE, LAYERED DEFENSE
The United States cannot achieve its defense objectives alone. Our concept of active, layered defense includes international partners. Thus, among the key goals of the National Security Strategy is to work with other nations to resolve regional crises and conflicts. In some cases, U.S. forces will play a supporting role, lending assistance to others when our unique capabilities are needed. In other cases, U.S. forces will be supported by international partners.
The redundancy of bases in the Asian ‘Stans provides for this “active, layered defense”, and ensures a regional crisis can be addressed quickly. Cooperation with local governments is vital to this effort. Close interaction provides on the ground increased diplomatic channels, local intelligence and contacts, and the ability to react quickly to problems as the infrastructure would already exist, requiring only a ramp-up in assets to improve capabilities. Contrary to the common perception among media elites, the American presence in Afghanistan has not fueled a growing hatred towards this country, and there is little evidence this is the case in the ‘Stans as well.
While many isolationists are looking for disengagement options and exit strategies from the Middle East and Central Asia, they need to wake up to the harsh reality that we are establishing a strong global presence to counteract the numerous threats inherent in these regions, including the spread of the Islamofascist ideology, the proliferation of WMD technology and the growing danger of Iran. In the globalized world of the 21