The Trump administration is fortifying their contentious military relationship with Saudi Arabia by arranging to deploy hundreds of troops to the western Asian country during rising friction with Iran.
According to United States defense authorities, 500 troops are supposed to be stationed at the Prince Sultan Air Base in the desert region east of Riyadh – the capital of Saudi. A few troops and support personnel are already situated there with early developments being made to setup a Patriot missile defense battery as well as airfield and runway upgrades.
The United States has hoped to station troops in that area for awhile, as security evaluations revealed that missiles from Iran would struggle to target the isolated region.
A month ago, the Trump administration declared that they would send an extra 1,000 troops to the Middle East as unease with Iran increased, although they did not clarify exactly which countries the troops would be deployed to. The troops heading to Saudi Arabia are a part of this movement.
Congress wasn’t officially alerted of this development, however, one official said that Congress received an informal notification and a formal announcement will be made next week. The report to Congress will reveal more specific details on the United States military movement to Saudi.
Commercial satellite images gathered by Planet Labs showed preliminary deployment of U.S military personnel to the airbase in June, according to Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey. Further images were retrieved towards the end of June and beginning of July, which seem to reveal preparations being established on-site ahead of the U.S troops.
“A small encampment and construction equipment appeared at the end of a runway by June 27, suggesting that improvements are already underway. The encampment to the east of the runway is typical of Air Force engineering squadrons deployed overseas,” said Lewis.