The United States plans to bolster its military presence in the Gulf after the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq announced by President Barack Obama, The New York Times reported.
Citing unnamed officials and diplomats, the newspaper said the repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.
Obama announced this month that all US troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year, ending a long war which created deep political divisions and estranged the United States from its allies.
After nearly nine years, the deaths of more than 4,400 US troops, tens of thousands of Iraqis and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama said the last American soldier would leave with his head held high.
After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 US troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative, The Times said.
In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region, according to the report.
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, the paper noted.
While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, it wants to foster a new “security architecture” for the Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense, The Times said.