The Pentagon said yesterday that it had no plans to relocate from its Al-Udeid control centre in Qatar to the Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
The statement followed earlier reports by the Washington Post that the move had been made temporarily, with the centre in Qatar resuming functionality after a period of 24 hours. The unannounced shift in operations was the first time US command and control had been moved out of the region since the centre was first established in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War.
The air base is the largest in the Middle East, capable of housing more than 10,000 US troops. On any given day in the region, as many as 300 US warplanes carry out operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and over allied bases in the Gulf.
Recent developments in the region are said to have added urgency to the project, notably the downing of a US surveillance drone by Iran and the attacks on Saudi’s Aramco oil facilities, which the US and Saudi blame on Iran, who deny the accusations.
One NATO officer disclosed that “Iran being able to hit the oil facilities without being seen or intercepted reinforced what has always been a concern: The Americans have a huge amount of military capability in the Gulf, but the command and control of that capability is a sitting duck for the Iranians in the case of a regional conflict.”
Recently, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the presence of foreign forces can be dangerous for the region and that wherever Americans have set foot, they increased instability, citing Afghanistan and Iraq.