US to maintain 35,000 troops in Gulf region: Hagel

MANAMA (AFP) - The US military is committed to maintaining its 35,000-strong force in the Gulf region regardless of a nuclear deal with Iran, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said Saturday in Bahrain.

The United States has "more than 35,000 military personnel" in and around the Gulf and "will not make any adjustments to its forces in the region" as a result of the interim accord with Iran, said Mr Hagel, according to a prepared text of a speech.

In a trip designed to reassure Gulf Arab allies worried about America's diplomatic opening with Iran, Mr Hagel enumerated a list of US weaponry and resources that will remain deployed in the region.

"We have a ground, air, and naval presence of more than 35,000 military personnel in and immediately around the Gulf," he said, according to the text of the speech he planned to deliver at a security conference in Manama.

The military footprint includes 10,000 US Army troops with tanks and Apache helicopters, roughly 40 ships at sea including an aircraft carrier battle group, missile defense systems, advanced radar,surveillance drones and warplanes that can strike at short notice, he said.

"We have deployed our most advanced fighter aircraft throughout the region, including F-22s, to ensure that we can quickly respond to contingencies," Mr Hagel said."Coupled with our unique munitions, no target is beyond our reach," he added, in an apparent reference to "bunker buster" bombs designed to penetrate deeply buried targets.

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