US gets permanent stronghold at Spanish military base, can triple contingent

US warplanes are seen at the Moron de la Frontera air base near Sevilla. (AFP Photo/Cristina Quicler)

US warplanes are seen at the Moron de la Frontera air base near Sevilla. (AFP Photo/Cristina Quicler)

Spain has signed an agreement with the US allowing to make its presence at a military base in southwest of the country permanent. Morón Air Base will be now able to station up to 3,000 troops – more than triple the size of the current contingent.

The Spanish government approved the deal on Friday. United States
Africa Command (USAFRICOM) recently used Morón Air Base for
operations to contain the Ebola outbreak sweeping through West

The high point of US State Secretary John Kerry’s visit to Madrid
on Sunday and Monday will be sealing the agreement. Once signed,
the new agreement needs to be ratified by the Spanish parliament.

The top-level visit sees Kerry planning to meet King Felipe,
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Foreign Minister Jose Manuel
Garcia Margallo.

Morón Air Base is located in Spain’s Andalusia region, the
country’s southernmost province. The base is less than an hour’s
drive from Seville, a city with a population of almost one

The bilateral agreement concerning US military presence at Morón
Air Base was signed back in 1988 and accords permitting US
presence at the base have been renewed on an annual basis.

Initially, there were no American troops stationed there. But
following a deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya’s Benghazi
on September 11, 2012, which claimed the life of US Ambassador
Christopher Stephens and three other Americans, US troops were
allowed on to the Spanish base in April 2013.

Last October, the US asked Spain for the usage of two military
bases in its south as ‘stopover points’ in the American mission
to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The request was granted and the US began utilizing Morón de la
Frontera and Rota in Andalusia for its Africa missions.

The Pentagon now can augment the number of servicemen at Morón
from the current 850 to 3,000 troops, with 2,200 American Marines
planned to arrive shortly. The number of military aircraft
stationed at the base can grow from 14 to 40.

The deal includes a pledge to invest €26 million ($US 29 million)
into development of the site, reports El Pais.

Speaking at a press conference in Madrid, Spain’s Deputy Prime
Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said deployment of the US
rapid reaction force to the country will contribute to stability
not only in Africa, but in Europe and the Middle East.

The base is to remain Spanish territory, so all American
unilateral missions from the base would need Spanish permission,
stressed the official.

According to the deputy PM, American investment in the Morón Air
Base will boost the local economy of the region.

The US Marines stationed in Spain are expected to protect
American embassies in the region, perform rescue missions and
intervene in regional conflicts and humanitarian crises.

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