The U.S. military wants to establish a permanent presence of up to 3,000 Marines at a Spanish air base that now serves as a temporary host for a task force of crisis-response troops supporting U.S. Africa Command, a Spanish newspaper said.
In early December, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a letter to Spanish authorities requesting permission to keep the Morón, Spain-based Marine quick-reaction force in the country, the newspaper El Pais reported last week.
According to the paper, the U.S. plan is to maintain a presence of roughly 850 Marines in Morón but to allow for a surge of up to 3,000 troops in the event of a crisis.
The unit, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force focused on crisis response, formed in 2013 in the wake of the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. The team is mobilized periodically in connection with potential threats in Africa; it has supported U.S. evacuation efforts in South Sudan and Libya and has provided logistical support for U.S. anti-Ebola efforts in western Africa.
Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said that the Pentagon has no announcement yet on the future status of Marines in Spain but that it is “always assessing our future needs.”
“Forward-rotation of the SP-MAGTF in Europe increases the capability of the command to rapidly respond to incidents in the region,” she said. “We will continue to work closely with our Spanish allies to find ways to broaden and deepen our bilateral defense relationship.”
In recent months, DOD has been building up its presence in Morón.
In March, it announced it would boost its presence in Spain by adding more Marines to the MAGTF, which was slated to increase from 500 to 850 Marines.
The military’s current basing deal is expected to expire in April, which means a temporary extension could happen before a long-term basing agreement is reached, according to El Pais.