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US troops are returning to the Saudi Arabian Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh, for the first time in 17 years.
The last time troops were in the base, was back in 2003, when they were moved to Qatar.
The purpose of the deployment of the 2,500 troops is to deter Iran from carrying out attacks on Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure, following an attack on Aramco’s oil facilities in September 2019, which the US and Saudi Arabia blamed on Tehran.
The prior US abandonment of the base was in large part because the US soldiers stationed in the strict Islamic kingdom became a “huge recruiting device for al Qaida,” according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.
There is very little modern infrastructure at the air base, “at the moment, the American encampment at Prince Sultan remains a basic outpost. The Saudis have built a road to service the American section of the base, while the Americans are installing electricity for new tents, and replacing some tents with trailers,” the WSJ reported.
Saudi military students were also allowed to resume their flight training at US bases, the Stars and Stripes reported.
The U.S. Navy said in a statement that flight training for the Saudi students resumed on February 25th. The training for about 850 Saudis at multiple U.S. bases was suspended December 10th, four days after a Saudi trainee shot and killed three U.S. Navy sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.
The Navy said new policies prohibit the possession of personally owned firearms by international students and limit foreign nationals to their assigned bases and facilities
The international students need to agree to the policies if they’re to be allowed to train at the facilities.
In early January, the Justice Department announced that 21 Saudi military students were sent home after a review of all Saudi trainees. The 21, including an undisclosed number at Pensacola, had posted jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography,” including in internet chat rooms, officials said.
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