U.S. pledges continued defense help after Keflavik base closes
Ties with Iceland will remain despite removal of troops
By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 29, 2006
U.S. troops haven’t seen the last of Iceland.
Although the United States will no longer have a base at Keflavik, the U.S. forces will continue to come to Iceland on a “time-to-time basis,” such as ship visits, said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas Hall.
Hall said he has served as chief negotiator for an inter-agency team tasked with negotiating the turnover of U.S. facilities to Iceland after Saturday.
The United States has vowed to continue to defend Iceland from “any and all threats” after the base closes, Hall said.
Conversely, Iceland has agreed to maintain infrastructure at Keflavik’s international airport to allow U.S. troops to conduct future exercises in the country, Hall said. Such exercises could include search and rescue and flight training, he said
To help maintain operations at the airport, the United States has agreed to lease Iceland certain equipment, such as fire trucks, snow removal equipment and navigational aids, Hall said.
Officials from the two countries are expected to formally sign an agreement on the way forward for Iceland and the United States in the near future, Hall said.
“All of the talks and agreement were conducted mutually in a very positive way. Members of both sides were working toward one common goal, which was to preserve this historic relationship, and to ensure that what we signed came out in the best interest of both nations mutually, and we achieved that objective,” he said.
The U.S. government announced in March that Naval Air Station Keflavik would close by October. At the time of the announcement, the base was home to 2,500 servicemembers and civilians.
About 50 reservists remain at Keflavik and none are expected to remain as of Saturday, officials said.
The closing is part of the Navy’s transformation in Europe, which includes moving naval forces from London to Naples, Italy; downsizing facilities in Gaeta, Italy; and closing a naval base at La Maddalena, Italy.
In June, the Air Force formally dissolved its command unit at the base, and a month later the 56th Rescue Squadron and 56th Maintenance Unit moved from Iceland to England.
After Saturday, the only remaining U.S. base in Iceland will be a communications facility run by American contractors, Hall said.