WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is relying on bases in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East to carry out airstrikes in Iraq, but is masking the locations and other details about the units and aircraft involved to avoid embarrassing partners in the region.
The Persian Gulf monarchies have long hosted U.S. forces to bolster their own security. But most have shied away from acknowledging the American presence and are even more reluctant now with U.S. warplanes bombing Iraq.
The arrangement is especially delicate given accusations from Washington that wealthy donors in the Gulf underwrite terrorist groups, including Islamic militants being targeted by the Pentagon.
Public records and U.S. military statements about the types of U.S. aircraft deployed over Iraq indicate they are primarily drawn from three major bases in the Gulf: al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Ali al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, and al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.
In addition, Predator drones and possibly other U.S. aircraft are flying from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, a NATO ally.
Those bases are responsible for launching about two-thirds of the airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 8, as well as a similar proportion of the thousands of surveillance sorties that have been conducted since June, according to U.S. military commanders. The remainder have been launched from the USS George H.W. Bush, an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and other ships in the carrier’s strike group.
The Pentagon has become increasingly dependent on the tiny Gulf states to host the bulk of its forces in the Middle East since it withdrew from Iraq in 2011.