FRONTLINE/World [home]

Search FRONTLINE/World

FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut

Rough Cut: Vacation From War
Background Facts and Related Links
Learn more about U.S. military operations in the Middle East and follow links to student blogs about their military stories and to Hello Dave's Web site.

The U.S. Military Abroad

The U.S. Department of Defense has stationed U.S. troops throughout the Persian Gulf, from Qatar, on the Arabian Peninsula, to Djibouti, along the eastern coast of Africa. These troops serve the ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, thousands more troops were sent to the region in an effort to combat terrorism and strengthen peacekeeping missions.

About 200,000 U.S. soldiers are permanently stationed abroad, mostly in South Korea, Germany and Japan. Another 45,000 troops are sent overseas as part of rotating temporary operations, focused mainly on flashpoint regions such as the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and the Taiwan Straits.

Outside the combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops are based in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Pakistan, Djibouti, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Although the Saudis had welcomed U.S. forces -- mostly Air Force members -- during the first Gulf War in 1990, subsequently, U.S. military presence there began to fuel anti-American sentiments. Many Saudis resented Americans being on their soil, especially as it is home to two of Islam's holiest cities, Mecca and Medina. In 2003, the United States withdrew approximately 7,000 troops from Saudi Arabia, ending a significant presence in the allied kingdom that had lasted for more than a decade. Washington has played down the troops' withdrawal as well as the souring of U.S.-Saudi relations following 9/11 (15 of the 19 hijackers behind the September 11th attacks were Saudis), but Osama bin Laden has repeatedly tied the presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia to his campaign of terror.

After the United States withdrew from Saudi Arabia, it expanded bases and airstrips in other Middle Eastern countries.

Approximately 1,600 troops are based in Qatar, and more than a thousand American soldiers are stationed in Djibouti, the only U.S. military base in sub Saharan Africa. Troops arrived in the former French territory three years ago as part of the global war on terror. Djibouti is strategically located along Africa's eastern coast, bordering Somalia, Ethiopia and the Gulf of Aden. Based at Camp Lemonier, the troops provide humanitarian assistance and are considered a vital part of protecting U.S. interests in the region.

The U.S. Department of Defense has a long tradition of organizing entertainment for American troops stationed abroad. Famous actors, musicians and comedians, from Bob Hope to Jessica Simpson, have entertained the troops over the years. The tours are coordinated by the Armed Forces Entertainment division, which hosts more than 1,200 shows annually at 270 locations around the world.

Sources: The New York Times, PBS, CIA World Factbook, GlobalSecurity.org, Chicago Tribune.

Related Links

Armed Forces Entertainment
This agency provides entertainment to U.S. military personnel overseas and hosts more than 1,200 shows worldwide each year.

MediaShift
Media expert Mark Glaser writes about the advantages and disadvantages of investigative journalism projects spearheaded under the News21 project.

U.C. Berkeley's News21 Blog
This blog features entries posted by students while traveling and filming their stories about the U.S. military abroad as part of the News21 project.

Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education
The Knight Foundation pledged $6 million over three years to create the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education in conjunction with five prominent graduate journalism schools, including U.C. Berkeley's. This initiative funded the News21 projects.

Hello Dave
The band's Web site includes a biography on band members, live footage from military tours and diary notes from a tour in Iraq during Christmas 2004, aptly titled "Iraq N Roll."