US to help Saudi's build new military force
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite their deepening political divide, the United States and Saudi Arabia are quietly expanding defense ties on a vast scale, led by a little-known project to develop an elite force to protect the kingdom's oil riches and future nuclear sites.
The force's main mission is to protect vital oil infrastructure, but its scope is wider. A formerly secret State Department cable released by the WikiLeaks website described the mission as protecting "Saudi energy production facilities, desalination plants and future civil nuclear reactors."
The special security force is expected to grow to at least 35,000 members, trained and equipped by U.S. personnel as part of a multiagency effort that includes staff from the Justice Department, Energy Department and Pentagon. It is overseen by the U.S. Central Command.
The newly established specialized force is separate from the regular Saudi military and is also distinct from Saudi Arabian National Guard, an internal security force whose mission is to protect the royal family and the Muslim holy places of Mecca and Medina. The U.S. has had a training and advising role with the regular Saudi military since 1953 and began advising the National Guard in 1973.
Labels: Saudi Arabia