The U.S. administration plans to build up the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq by the end of this year, The New York Times reported on Sunday, referring to diplomatic sources.
This repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait capable of responding to security failures in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran, the paper said.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. The decision comes after unsuccessful attempts by the U.S. administration to persuade Iraqi officials to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and grant them immunity from prosecution.
In addition to negotiations on maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the U.S. is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region, the paper said.
With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
At the same time, the U.S. administration and the military are trying to foster a new "security architecture" for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense, the paper said.
The size of the American combat force to be stationed in Kuwait remains the subject of negotiations, with an answer expected in coming days, the paper said.