- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) — The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to as many as four bases there, The New York Times reported Sunday.

One of the bases would be at the international airport just outside Baghdad, according to Bush administration officials quoted in the report.

The others would be at Tallil, near An Nasiriyah in the south; at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along an old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north.

"There will be some kind of a long-term defense relationship with a new Iraq, similar to Afghanistan," said one senior administration official.

"The scope of that has yet to be defined — whether it will be full-up operational bases, smaller forward operating bases or just plain access."

The military is already using these bases to support operations against the remnants of the old government, to deliver supplies and relief aid and for reconnaissance patrols.

Col. John Dobbins, commander of Tallil Forward Air Base, said the Air Force plan envisioned "probably two bases that will stay in Iraq for an amount of time."

"That amount of time, obviously, is an unknown," he told the Times.

But as the invasion force withdraws in the months ahead and turns over control to a new Iraqi government, Pentagon officials expect to gain access to the bases in the event of some future crisis, according to the report.

The other base for the Air Force is at Bashur, in the north, Pentagon officials said. The Army now holds the Baghdad airport. The H-1 base in the west has permitted Special Operations forces to move out of their secret bases in Jordan and Saudi Arabia and set up a forward headquarters.

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