David Vine - TomDispatch.com
YOU MIGHT think that the US military is in the process of shrinking, rather than expanding, its little-noticed but enormous collection of bases abroad.
After all, it was forced to close the full panoply of 505 bases, mega to micro, that it built in Iraq, and it’s now beginning the process of drawing down forces in Afghanistan.
In Europe, the Pentagon is continuing to close its massive bases in Germany and will soon remove two combat brigades from that country. Global troop numbers are set to shrink by around 100,000.
Yet Washington still easily maintains the largest collection of foreign bases in world history: more than 1,000 military installations outside the 50 states and Washington, D.C. They include everything from decades-old bases in Germany and Japan to brand-new drone bases in Ethiopia and the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean and even resorts for military vacationers in Italy and South Korea.
In Afghanistan, the US-led international force still occupies more than 450 bases. In total, the US military has some form of troop presence in approximately 150 foreign countries, not to mention 11 aircraft carrier task forces — essentially floating bases — and a significant, and growing, military presence in space. The United States currently spends an estimated $250 billion annually maintaining bases and troops overseas.
Some bases, like Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, date to the late 19th century. Most were built or occupied during or just after World War II on every continent, including Antarctica. Although the US military vacated around 60% of its foreign bases following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Cold War base infrastructure remained relatively intact, with 60,000 American troops remaining in Germany alone, despite the absence of a superpower adversary.