US to keep strong presence in Mideast

2012-12-11 22:35

Kuwait City -The US military will retain a "strong presence" in the Middle East despite a strategic shift to Asia, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday during a visit to Kuwait.

The US plans to deploy a majority of its naval fleet to the Asia-Pacific along with other advanced weaponry but Panetta insisted that a robust American force would remain in place in the Middle East.

Panetta spoke to journalists aboard his plane travelling to Kuwait City on a two-day visit to discuss bolstering security ties amid tumult in the region and tensions with Iran.

"Let me assure you that the United States is strong enough that we can maintain a strong presence in the Middle East as well as in the Pacific," he said.

He acknowledged that the US had to be "flexible" in managing its forces in a more austere era and that it would have only one aircraft carrier in the Middle East for about two months to allow for maintenance work on another carrier, the USS Nimitz.

The American military still had nearly 50 000 troops and warships positioned across the region, he said.

"But in the end, I am very confident that we're going to be able to maintain the ships and forces we need in order to respond to any contingency."

The US has deployed more ships and aircraft in the strategic Gulf over the past year after Iran threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz if Western countries boycotted Iranian oil exports.

Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah, held talks at his residence with Panetta in the presence of the crown prince, the prime minister, defence minister and senior officials, the state-run Kuna news agency reported.

Kuna provided no details about the talks.

During the visit, which ends on Wednesday, Panetta also plans to meet some of the 13 500 US troops stationed in the Gulf state to thank them for their service ahead of the Christmas holidays.

His visit is the first to the emirate by a Pentagon chief in five years.

"We share a history of co-operation that goes back to the first Gulf War," in 1991 that ousted Iraqi occupation forces, Panetta said of Kuwait, calling the country an "important partner".

"I look forward to discussing with the government of Kuwait how can we enhance that co-operation in the face of regional security challenges in the area," he said.

"Our presence in Kuwait and throughout the Gulf helps enhance the capabilities of partner nations, deters aggression and helps ensure that we're better able to respond to crises in the region."

Panetta's visit coincides with a wave of protests in the oil-rich Gulf state, with thousands of opposition demonstrators demanding fresh elections due to a bitter dispute over amendments to the country's electoral law.

Kuwaiti activists have called for protesters to camp outside parliament next Saturday on the eve of its opening session.

  • dylan.sciarappa - 2012-12-12 06:19

    One has to question who the real terrorist in the world is

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 08:12

      . And while the lunatics of the violent left, are stuck in a 'sixties' mentality, they are to dumb and stupid, to see, that hundreds of thousands of 'plain clothes' Chinese are spreading themselves all over the world, destroying local businesses, many of them informal, and destroying hundreds of thousands of local jobs !!!!! THAT ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS !!!!!

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 08:17

      "that hundreds of thousands of 'plain clothes' Chinese are spreading themselves all over the world," Th real question then becomes what is it that YOU are doing in this continent?

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 08:45

      Fidel, Me ? Started a small business 35 years ago, and with this, create employment, three African ladies who joined me in 1976, still work for the business!! Besides very proud of this, also believe, I contribute more to Africa, than many born here................!! Even more than some who spend their day behind a computer, critizing aything GOOD with Africa. Than I am married to a black lady, and have mixed race African kids. Am very comfortable here!! Any further questions ??

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 09:21

      Let me rephrase, why are YOU in Africa, and not in your mother continent, seeing that you want to deny the people of China a presence in Africa.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 10:05

      Fidel, Let me go slowly !! Many people from other countries, and surely, not only from Europe and the US, contribute to this beautiful continent!! The Chinese do NOT, they DESTROY !! They are primarily after Africa's minerals.....ON THEIR TERMS, AND THEIRS ONLY !! They flood Africa with cheap Chinese made goods, destrying thousands of local businesses. There are tens of thousands of small Chinese shops, just popped up in SA, in the last few years. Go and see if you can find even one Black face there, or for that mnatter, a White face. NO, you will not find. Most of these Chinese are illegals, many coming in on a tourist visa, with the intention, never to return to their mother country !! their businesses are not regitered, and nor do they pay taxes!! The Chinese have brought China to Africa !! You get it now ?

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 10:26

      "Many people from other countries, and surely, not only from Europe and the US, contribute to this beautiful continent!!" "The Chinese do NOT, they DESTROY !!" What an utterly repellent comment to make!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 13:23

      . Sometimes the truth hurts !!

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 13:35

      There's truth and there's opinion, two totally different things. It is possible for someone to have such strong prejudiced convictions, but not when they are based on falsehoods and total ignorance. Perhaps someone should water you!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-12-12 16:25

      . By the way, did you get married over the weekend ??

  • fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 07:38

    The emperor is just another emperor. Nice clothes, same mentality.

  • mzakes.matabata - 2012-12-12 11:21

    What he is actually saying we are getting out of the ME, that's political talk.

      fidelity.mcoshi - 2012-12-12 13:49

      No that can't happen. Imagine what will happen to that country when all the soldiers in ME go home. They will have hundreds of thousands of unemployed trained killers, some damaged beyond repair, turned loose on their families and communities.

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