Some 2,500 US troops currently in Saudi Arabia: WSJ

A Patriot missile battery is seen near Prince Sultan air base at al-Kharj on February 20, 2020. (AFP)

Over 2,500 US troops are currently launching F-15 fighter jets and handling Patriot missile batteries in shifts in Saudi Arabia at the Prince Sultan airbase some 96 km southeast of Riyadh, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US troops are being based out of the Prince Sultan airbase some 96 km southeast of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh.

"We face a thinking enemy that is playing a real regional conflict for keeps, and they’re very good,” said Gen. John Walker, the commander of the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing at the base, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying.

Last September, US President Donald Trump approved for the deployment of American troops to bolster Saudi Arabia’s air and missile defenses after the largest-ever attack on the kingdom’s oil facilities, which Washington has squarely blamed on Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was pictured visiting the American troops in Saudi Arabia last Thursday after talks with King Salman on the second day of a visit focused on countering Iran.

In July last year, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz had approved hosting US forces in the Kingdom to boost regional security and stability.

The US Defense Department confirmed the move in a statement, saying it would deploy troops and resources to Saudi Arabia to “provide an additional deterrent” in the face of “emergent, credible threats.”

In October last year, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper informed Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of the additional troop deployment to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia.

Reuters reported at that time that the US was planning to send a large number of additional forces, possibly thousands, to the Kingdom following the September 14 attack on its oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blamed on Iran.

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