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Pentagon: Reports of US leaving Incirlik, Al-Udeid false

The English-language Gulf Daily News reported on Saturday that U.S. forces were leaving Qatar and moving to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military rejected reports that it was preparing to abandon bases in Qatar and Turkey, issuing a flurry of Twitter postings Sunday that said the reports were false.

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 26, 2018

STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. military denied news reports that it was preparing to abandon bases in Qatar and Turkey after issuing a flurry of Twitter posts from multiple commands Sunday.

The information appears to have initially been posted by DEBKAfiles, an Israeli military and security news website. The news got picked up by various outlets in the Middle East and made the front page of a newspaper in Bahrain.

By Sunday afternoon, U.S. Central Command took to Twitter.

“The U.S. is not leaving Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, nor is the U.S. leaving Al Udeid AB, Qatar. These reports are false and without merit,” CENTCOM said.

The Pentagon, U.S. European Command and other commands followed suit, issuing similar denials in what could be a sign of a more coordinated effort by the military to counter what it sees as false news.

“There is zero credibility to news reports asserting the U.S. is leaving Incirlik and Al Udeid AB in Turkey and Qatar,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White tweeted Sunday. “These reports are unhelpful and feed mistrust and division among regional partners at a time when we need to work together to address shared security concerns.”

Along NATO’s southern flank in Turkey and across the Persian Gulf, the future of America’s bases in the region has long been a source of speculation.

With Washington and Ankara increasingly at odds over the conflict in Syria, the durability of their alliance has been called into question, as has future U.S. access to Incirlik. Meanwhile, Qatar’s political isolation by other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, has put a spotlight on U.S. operations at the Al-Udeid base.

During the past couple years, the military has talked about the need to get more aggressive in responding to misinformation campaigns. Much of the focus has been on Russia and its state-controlled media outlets.

More “energy and focus” is needed to counter information operations carried out by adversaries, U.S. European Command chief Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said during testimony before Congress earlier this month.

“We in EUCOM engage through NATO and (the European Union), as well as our partners in individual countries, in countering the Russian message ... much of it can be done through public affairs,” Scaparrotti said.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II departs Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Jan. 20, 2018. The U.S. military rejected reports that it was preparing to abandon bases in Qatar and Turkey, issuing a flurry of Twitter postings Sunday that said the reports were false.
KRISTAN CAMPBELL/U.S. AIR FORCE

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