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Tomgram: David Vine, Baseworld Profiteering


Every now and then, news about U.S. military bases abroad actually gets a little attention. The most recent example: Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s announcement that the U.S. will be able to keep nine bases after the 2014 withdrawal of its combat troops. (“‘They want nine bases... across the country, in Kabul, Bagram, Mazar, Jalalabad, Gardez, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand and Herat,’ he told faculty members and students [at Kabul University]. ‘We agree to give the bases. We see their presence after 2014 in Afghanistan as a positive.’”) These aren’t, of course, small bases. Two of them, Bagram and Kandahar, are veritable monsters, and so offer some indication of Washington’s possible plans -- evidently still in flux -- for keeping U.S. troops, trainers, advisors, special operations forces, CIA types, private security contractors, assorted allied Afghan militias, and whatnot in place once the war is officially “over” and “withdrawal” complete.

Most of the time, though, you have to be a fanatic news jockey to notice pieces about what could be considered the most singular aspect of the American overseas persona: our “empire of bases” (as Chalmers Johnson used to call it). Though base numbers remain staggering and historically unprecedented, most Americans are hardly aware of their existence. So, picking and choosing from the last month of overlooked base news, how many of you noticed that a U.S. KC-135 refueling plane, based at an American “military installation” connected to Manas International Airport near Bishtek, went down over northern Kyrgyzstan? How many of you knew that the U.S. had a military installation in Kyrgyzstan, just a hop, skip, and a jump across Tajikistan from Afghanistan? How many of you can even locate Kyrgyzstan? (I just checked my own atlas to be sure!)

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