US Central Command wants $21 million to expand a vital Middle East port to help counter Iran
- US Central Command is asking Congress for $21 million to expand its logistics footprint at the port of Duqm in Oman.
- Located outside the Persian Gulf, Duqm gives the US more capabilities in the region, including another port that aircraft carriers can use.
- Duqm could also give the US an advantage in a burgeoning competition with China, which is expanding its influence around the world.
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A year after the US clinched a deal with Oman to access facilities and ports in Duqm, US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, is asking for money to expand its operations there.When the deal was stuck, US officials said it provided better access the Persian Gulf and reduced the need to sail through the Strait of Hormuz, a maritime choke point that Iran has threatened to block. US 5th Fleet, which is responsible for the region, is based in the Gulf on the island of Bahrain.Advertisement
"The port itself is very attractive, and the geostrategic location is very attractive, again being outside the Strait of Hormuz," a US official told Reuters at the time, adding that negotiations began under Obama.
In an unfunded priorities list submitted to lawmakers last month and obtained by Insider, Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth McKenzie requested a total of $371.8 million to "increase our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capacity, support countering unmanned aerial systems threats, provide for base
Below, you can see what goes on at Duqm and why the US is so keen to be there.
The US and Oman signed a "Strategic Framework Agreement" on March 24, 2019, allowing US forces to use the ports of Al Duqm and Salalah.
The deal allowed Oman to advance its efforts to transform Duqm into an industrial hub and port center and offered the US better positioning in the region amid a growing competition with China for influence all over the world.Advertisement
Concerns about China notwithstanding, US officials framed the deal with Oman over Duqm as a success in its efforts with partners in the region against Iran.
The port at Duqm is also large enough to host aircraft carriers.Advertisement
In January, aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy made their first port visit at Duqm while transiting through the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Personnel from Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Bahrain traveled to Duqm to help offload cargo, including 6,000 pounds of mail and flu vaccines for the Normandy. They also found lost baggage for a service member who traveled commercially to meet the Truman.Advertisement
"Supporting a ship with 5,000-plus sailors can be a complex and challenging logistical evolution. It helps us at NAVSUP FLC Bahrain, as well as the ship's company, to have personnel on site," said Joshua Wells, a contracting officer with NAVSUP FLC Bahrain.
The $21 million requested by Central Command would "go to support waterfront operations, warehouse, boat maintenance, and ordnance facilities and activities for all three Service Components," the unfunded priorities letter says.Advertisement
"Further development ensures Duqm supports a more efficient, flexible, and resilient [Central Command] posture with dispersed aerial- and sea-port of debarkation capabilities that mitigate movement constraints through strategic maritime chokepoints," it adds.
In addition to $21 million for logistics upgrades, Central Command requested $24.1 million for commercial equipment to secure Duqm and other facilities in the region.Advertisement
"Many existing operating locations require additional equipment to accommodate theater force re-posturing in response to Iranian aggression and counter-ISIS campaigns," the letter says.
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