Mullen meets Bahrain's king; Marines on standby for unrest
Stars and Stripes February 25, 2011
MANAMA, Bahrain — The streets of the diplomatic area were quiet Thursday night as Adm. Mike Mullen met with Bahrain’s King Hamad to discuss the political unrest here, offering reassurances from one military to another.
But the next morning, hours before more protests were expected to flood the streets of Manama after Friday prayers, Mullen was at the U.S. military base meeting with Marines with the security contingent that protects the Embassy.
A picture of Mullen meeting the king was on the front page of the English-language Daily Times, under the headline “U.S. reiterates full backing for Bahrain.”
Mullen’s spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, said the chairman solicited the king’s viewpoint and “thanked [him for] the very measured way in which they’ve been handling the popular crisis here.”
Though the city has remained peaceful since military forces were pulled off the streets on Feb. 19, sentiments remain strong.
Friday’s protests were expected to draw thousands — Shiites in the west around Pearl Square, and pro-government Sunnis in the east, around the Grand Mosque.
For U.S. forces at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, there has been little interaction with the chaos just a few miles away. Personnel are banned from going near the protests, and have been advised to not provide base goings-on or speculate on social media or elsewhere.“Except for the media, we almost wouldn’t know that these things are going on,” said Lt. Col. Mark Duffen, deputy current operations officer.
None of it has been directed against the U.S. presence, Duffen said, and some personnel think that the larger pro-government rallies nearer the American base have been ignored by Western media favoring the populist uprisings.
Mullen was here in December visiting the naval operations side, so he focused this visit on the Marines, lunching with about 80 Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team members.
U.S. Central Command had their Marines stand up a forward command post here in November with a bigger headquarters and plans for more Marines to come. By how much, and much of what they will do, remains classified, though it includes everything from intelligence to humanitarian assistance, Duffen said. They’re also prepared to evacuate civilians from the unrest if needed.
With the Iraq War winding down, however, counterterrorism and foreign military training operations are on the rise across the region.On Thursday in Djibouti, officials with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa said Camp Lemonier also was expanding rapidly by hundreds of square yards, upgrading from tents to manicured neighborhoods of converted shipping containers used as living quarters, building bigger facilities and bringing in more self-sustaining energy and water equipment.
On Friday, Mullen was to attend the 20th anniversary parade for Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait.email@example.com