Pentagon proposes bases in hot spots

Bases in Africa, Mid-East, S-W Asia will serve as special ops and intelligence hubs

WASHINGTON • As American intelligence agencies grapple with the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) beyond its headquarters in Syria, the Pentagon has proposed a new plan to the White House to build up a string of military bases in Africa, South-west Asia and the Middle East.

The bases could be used for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes against the terrorist group's far-flung affiliates.

The growth of ISIS' franchises - at least eight militant groups have pledged loyalty to the network's leaders so far - has forced a debate within the Obama administration about how to distinguish between the affiliates that pose the most immediate threat to the United States and Europe and others that are more regionally focused.

The regional groups, some officials say, may have opportunistically adopted ISIS' brand to bolster their local clout and global stature.

In the midst of that debate, senior military officials have told the White House that the network of bases would serve as hubs for Special Operations troops and intelligence operatives who would conduct counter-terrorism missions for the foreseeable future.

The plan would all but ensure what Pentagon officials call an "enduring" American military presence in some of the world's most volatile regions.

Officials said that the Pentagon's proposed new architecture of bases would include four "hubs" - including expanding existing bases in Djibouti and Afghanistan - and smaller "spokes", or more basic installations, in countries that could include Niger and Cameroon, where the US now carries out unarmed surveillance drone missions, or will soon.

The hubs would range in size from about 500 US troops to 5,000 personnel, and the likely cost would be "several million dollars" a year, mostly in personnel expenses, Pentagon officials said. They would also require the approval of the host nation.

Meanwhile, the US military said on Thursday that a coalition air strike killed an ISIS finance chief in Iraq last month, hailing it as another scalp in its bid to blow apart the extremists' financial network.

Abu Saleh was killed late last month, US military spokesman Steve Warren said in a video-conference from Baghdad, calling him "one of the most senior and experienced members" of the group's nefarious financial system.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Pentagon proposes bases in hot spots'. Print Edition | Subscribe