Saudi Arabia Facilities
During mid-2003 roughly 4,500 US troops redeployed from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, leaving about 500 in Saudi Arabia. Although the main Air Force facility at Prince Sultan AB closed, the main Army facility at Eskan Village remained open.
Saudi Arabia's unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world's largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States. Diplomatic relations were established in 1933; the U.S. embassy opened in Jeddah in 1944 and moved to Riyadh in 1984. The Jeddah embassy became a U.S. consulate. Meanwhile, a U.S. consulate opened in Dhahran in 1944.
The United States and Saudi Arabia share a common concern about regional security, oil exports and imports, and sustainable development. Close consultations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have developed on international, economic, and development issues such as the Middle East peace process and shared interests in the Gulf. The continued availability of reliable sources of oil, particularly from Saudi Arabia, remains important to the prosperity of the United States as well as to Europe and Japan. Saudi Arabia is often the leading source of imported oil for the United States, providing about 20% of total U.S. crude imports and 10% of U.S. consumption. The U.S. is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia is the largest U.S. export market in the Middle East.
In addition to economic ties, a longstanding security relationship continues to be important in U.S.-Saudi relations. A U.S. military training mission established at Dhahran in 1953 provides training and support in the use of weapons and other security-related services to the Saudi armed forces. The United States has sold Saudi Arabia military aircraft (F-15s, AWACS, and UH-60 Blackhawks), air defense weaponry (Patriot and Hawk missiles), armored vehicles (M1A2 Abrams tanks and M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles), and other equipment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has had a long-term role in military and civilian construction activities in the Kingdom.
The Gulf War demonstrated U.S.-Saudi cooperation in the areas of cultural accommodation, as well as in military operations. For example, the United States military issued general orders prohibiting the consumption of alcohol and setting guidelines for off-duty behavior and attire. Saudi Arabia accommodated U.S. culture and its military procedures by allowing U.S. servicewomen to serve in their varied roles throughout the kingdom--a major step for a highly patriarchal society.
Saudi Arabia is blessed with modern seaports and airports, as well as a limited number of modern highways that can be used to move troops and materiel. When Operation Desert Shield began in August 1990, however, there was no logistics infrastructure to feed, shelter, and supply a force of the size being assembled. The primary airports of debarkation and embarkation were Dhahran, Riyadh, and King Khalid Military City in Saudi Arabia. When the US Air Force arrived in Saudi Arabia to support Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, some Saudi bases were modern facilities, while others were little more than a runway, a parking ramp, and sand. Facilities for more aircraft were needed closer to the Kuwaiti border, so a new base was constructed at Al Kharj, about 60 miles south of Riyadh. Al Kharj, one of the sites selected to receive Phase II aircraft, was a classic bare base location. It had been programmed as a massive Saudi military installation, but only a runway, a taxiway, and a parking apron had been constructed.
Saudi Arabia is an important partner in the campaign against terrorism, providing assistance in the military, diplomatic, and financial arenas.
Despite close cooperation on security issues, the United States remained concerned about human rights conditions in Saudi Arabia. Principal human rights problems include abuse of prisoners and incommunicado detention; prohibitions or severe restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, peaceful assembly and association, and religion; denial of the right of citizens to change their government; systematic discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities; and suppression of workers' rights.
Due to ongoing security concerns, on December 17, 2003, the Department of State authorized the departure, on a voluntary basis, of family members and non-emergency personnel of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Saudi Arabia. U.S. consular personnel remain available to provide emergency services to American citizens. The U.S. Government continues to receive indications of terrorist threats aimed at American and Western interests, including the targeting of transportation and civil aviation. American citizens in Saudi Arabia should remain vigilant, particularly in public places associated with the Western community. Terrorists have attacked residential housing compounds in the Riyadh area in 2003. Credible information indicates that terrorists continue to target residential compounds in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the Riyadh area, but also compounds throughout the country.
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