The U.S. has maintained a costly presence in the Middle East for decades, with at least 60,000 troops currently stationed around the region, according to United States Central Command.
By the numbers: The U.S. has nearly 800 military bases around the world, and U.S. Central Command says between 60,000 and 70,000 U.S. troops are in the Middle East.
- Bahrain: More than 7,000 US troops, mostly naval forces, are there to maintain Persian Gulf security.
- Iraq: About 5,200 US troops were in the northern part of Iraq as of January, per the Defense Department.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they were there help combat ISIS. The number may drop as the Iraqi military has said US troops have to leave.
- Jordan: About 2,795 US troops support operations to defeat ISIS and promote regional stability.
- Kuwait: Over 13,000 American troops are stationed in Kuwait and the US Central Command (CENTCOM) forward headquarters is there as well.
- Oman: The country has hosted US operations since 1980 and has assisted the US in combating ISIS. A few hundred Americans are there now.
- Qatar: As many as 13,000 US troops are in Qatar, with plans to expand. The Gulf nation supports US efforts to combat regional terrorism.
- Saudi Arabia: The Trump administration announced on Nov. 19 that approximately 3,000 US troops will be deployed to Saudi Arabia to protect the region “against hostile action by Iran and its proxy forces.”
- Syria: CENTCOM does not disclose the current number of troops, but DOD has said about 2,000 US service personnel were in Syria, and the Military Times reports approximately 800 might still be there to protect oil resources.
- Turkey: The number of US troops in Turkey is unclear, but the country’s strategic location makes it valuable for transporting arms and people. The US has air bases in Izmir and Incirlik as part of NATO.
- United Arab Emirates: 5,000 US troops are stationed at air and naval bases.
In addition, just across the Strait of Hormuz, lies the American Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), the only permanent US base on the continent.
There are other U.S. bases in the region, but the locations aren’t disclosed for security purposes.
U.S. may deploy 14,000 more troops to Middle East.
Trump administration considers sharp expansion of forces to deter Iran
The Trump administration is considering a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops to counter Iran, U.S. officials said.
The deployment could double the number of U.S. military personnel who have been sent to the region since the start of a troop buildup in May. President Donald Trump is expected to make a decision on the new deployments as soon as this month, those officials said.
Trump, facing an election next year, has long sought to exit foreign entanglements and avoid new conflicts. But on Iran — and partly at the behest of Israel — he is convinced of the need to counter the threat his aides say Tehran poses, the officials said. He also could approve a smaller U.S. deployment, the officials said.
There is growing fear among U.S. military and other administration officials that an attack on U.S. interests and forces could leave the U.S. with few options in the region, officials said. By sending additional military resources to the region, the administration would be presenting a more credible deterrent to Tehran, which has been blamed for a series of attacks, including one in September against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Iran has denied involvement.
The new U.S. deployment also would be designed as a deterrent against possible Iranian retaliation for mounting sanctions under the administration’s economic-pressure campaign. Some officials worry, however, that adding more military resources to the mix could provoke another attack or put the region on track for a dangerous and unpredictable conflict.