WASHINGTON – The capital may be buzzing with talk about the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, but the US Air Force appears to be planning for a long stay in Mesopotamia and Central Asia.
The USAF is reported to be expanding its air bases in Iraq, including lengthening a second 11,000-ft runway at Balad Airbase, a nerve center for American air operations. There are persistent reports from the Pentagon that the US intends to keep four to six major military bases in Iraq, each with a powerful air component, and a 3,500-man helicopter-mobile, rapid reaction infantry brigade. Other US operating air bases in Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Pakistan, and Central Asia are being steadily improved.
Bush Administration hawks hope to retain control of oil-rich Iraq, and sharply decrease the number of US battle casualties, by using American air power and Iraqi troops. Iraqi "native" troops, or "sepoys," as the British used to call its local mercenaries, will do all the dirty work on the ground and keep the populace under control.
US air power and infantry will only intervene when Iraqi sepoys get into trouble. This is precisely the same formula use by the British Empire to rule Iraq after World War I. Winston Churchill even authorized use of mustard gas by the RAF against rebellious Kurdish tribesmen – and troublesome Pashtun tribesmen on India’s Northwest frontier.