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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Extended Presence of U.S. in Iraq Looms Large

Published on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 by the Associated Press 
$1 billion for construction of American military bases and no public plans
 
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq - The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that?s now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a ?heli-park? as good as any back in the States. At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq?s western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads. At a third hub down south, Tallil, they?re planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow. Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.
?I think we?ll be here forever,? the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base.
The Iraqi people suspect the same. Strong majorities tell pollsters they?d like to see a timetable for U.S. troops to leave, but believe Washington plans to keep military bases in their country.
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