The United States has increased its access and its forward presence since the Gulf War, while trying to keep its footprint to a minimum. Bahrain and the United States signed an agreement in October 1991 granting US forces access to Bahraini facilities and ensuring the right to pre-position material for future crises. US forces include a naval component, organized as the Fifth Fleet under a Naval Forces Command headquartered in Bahrain, which regularly includes a battle carrier group and other naval assets. Maritime intercept operation enforce the UN sanctions regime on Iraq, and a Marine Expeditionary Force has pre-positioned equipment in the Gulf. The Air Force has an air wing conducting Operation Southern Watch in southern Iraq, and the United States has forward-deployed Patriot batteries and special operations teams.
Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) are loaded with necessary military supplies (ammunition, military vehicles, medical equipment, etc.) and stationed at Bahrain. Although their official homeport is Norfolk, VA, the ships of Afloat Prepositioning Ships Squadron Four are always forward-deployed to the Persian Gulf and have no tie whatsoever to Virginia. The normal operational schedule for the ships is to be at anchor off Bahrain 75 percent of the time with some underway time in the Persian Gulf.The vast majority of NAVCENT's operating forces are rotationally deployed to the region from either the Pacific Fleet or the Atlantic Fleet. Once in theater they fall under the US Fifth Fleet, also commanded by COMUSNAVCENT. These forces normally consist of an aircraft carrier battle group, an amphibious ready group (ARG), surface combatants, submarines, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, and logistics ships. Providing a continuous naval presence in the absence of a deployed CVBG or ARG are the ships of Commander, Task Force FIFTY. These ships work closely with other coalition participants to enforce UN sanctions against Iraq, and conduct the majority of all maritime intercept boardings in the Arabian Gulf. In 1996 US naval presence and ability to preserve the security of regional sea lines of communication (SLOCs) were significantly enhanced by the addition of two forward-deployed AVENGER-class mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels to the Gulf. USS Ardent (MCM 12) and USS Dextrous (MCM 13) remain forward deployed to Bahrain, manned by Mine Countermeasures Rotational Crews (Alfa - Hotel) based at Naval Station Ingleside, Texas. The deployed battle groups and other units receive logistic support from the auxiliary ships of Commander, Task Force FIFTY-THREE.
Fifth Fleet supports operational forces and afloat units assigned or attached to the United States Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT) and to other joint and combined Use The Fifth Fleet area of responsibility includes the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf [the US uses the term "Arabian Gulf" instead of "Persian Gulf"]. The Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf are not in WESTPAC. Major Commands include Commander, US Naval Forces, Central Command Commander Logistics Forces, US Naval Forces Central Command (CTF-53) Administrative Support Unit, Southwest Asia (ASU SWA) Commander Destroyer Group (COMDESRON 50). Other Tenant Commands include:
Bahrain is a small island, about 10 miles wide and 30 miles long, with a population of almost 600,000. Because of its small size and limited wealth, Bahrain has not taken a leading role in regional or international affairs. In the early nineteenth century the British had no desire to take over the desolate areas along the gulf, but they did wish to secure the area so that it would not pose a threat to shipping to and from their possessions in India. The British decided to leave in power those tribal leaders who had not been conspicuously involved with piracy, with whom they concluded a series of treaties to suppress piracy. As a result of these truces, the Arab side of the gulf came to be known as the "trucial coast." The area has also been referred to as "trucial Oman" to distinguish it from the part of Oman that was not bound by treaty obligation. The original 1820 treaties, which from the outset involved Bahrain, were extended over the next 100 years, and by the end of World War I leaders from Oman to Iraq had essentially yielded control of their foreign relations to Britain. The British Navy established a naval installation known as HMS JUFFAIR on April 13, 1935 in the area where ASU-SWA is located today.
In 1950, the United States Navy leased office space aboard HMS JUFFAIR from the British. In 1971, after their treaty expired, the British left Bahrain, granting the island total independence. The United States, through agreement with the Bahraini government, took over part of HMS JUFFAIR, renaming it Administrative Support Unit Bahrain.The US Navy has maintained a permanent presence in the Gulf since the establishment of the Middle East Force (MIDEASTFOR) in 1949. For the next 20 years, three or four ships at a time were assigned to MIDEASTFOR -generally a command ship and two or three small combatants such as destroyers or frigates. Navy presence was embodied in the "little white fleet" of USS Duxbury Bay (AVP 38), USS Greenwich Bay (AVP 41) and USS Valcour (AVP 55)--former seaplane tenders--which rotated duties as flagship for Commander Middle East Force and his staff. All three ships were painted white to counter the region's extreme heat. The flagship served as the primary protocol platform of the United States throughout the region. Accompanied by one or two other rotationally deployed warships, the Middle East Force provided the initial US military response to any crisis in the region, as well as humanitarian and emergency assistance.
When Bahrain became a sovereign state in 1971, the US Navy worked out an agreement to take over piers, radio transmitters, warehouses, and other facilities left vacant by the departing British. USS La Salle (AGF 3), an amphibious transport ship converted for Gulf duty, began to serve as the permanent MIDEASTFOR flagship 24 August 1972. In 1977 the agreement establishing Bahrain as the home port for the United States Navy's Middle East Force (MIDEASTFOR) was terminated when MIDEASTFOR was subsumed into NAVCENT, a part of US Central Command in Tampa, Florida. Bahrain now is host to the Navy's Fifth Fleet.
DESERT SHIELD/STORM brought together the largest force of Navy warships assembled in a single theater since World War II. Bahrain played a limited but active role in the Gulf War, serving as the primary coalition naval base and the point of origin for coalition air operations against Iraqi targets. After the Persian Gulf War, Bahrain held negotiations with Washington that culminated in 1992 in the signing of a defense cooperation agreement. The terms of this agreement permit the United States to pre-position military supplies and equipment in Bahrain and to use its military facilities. The Command title was changed to Administrative Support Unit, Southwest Asia in 1992 to reflect the new mission to support ships and remote sites throughout the COMUSNAVCENT Area of Responsibility.
Bahrain (from the Arabic word for "two seas") comprises an archipelago of thirty-three islands situated midway in the Persian Gulf close to the shore of the Arabian Peninsula. The islands are about twenty-four kilometers from the east coast of Saudi Arabia and twenty-eight kilometers from Qatar. The total area of the islands is about 691 square kilometers, or about four times the size of the District of Columbia. The largest island, accounting for 83 percent of the area, is Bahrain (also seen as Al Bahrayn), which has an extent of 572 square kilometers.Remote Sites include