The American Legion Magazine
February 2008
By Alan W. Dowd

According to Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, director of operational planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “About 490,000 U.S. service personnel are forward-deployed around the world.”

Given the fluid—and sometimes classified—nature of U.S. military operations, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact size and placement of every deployment. Think of the following as a snapshot of America’s overseas commitments. This snapshot is based on available data from a variety of open-source materials, including the Pentagon’s “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country” report, the State Department’s “Country Background Notes,” Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports, information from U.S. bases, and press reports.  

This map only includes deployments larger than 100 troops, which is not to minimize the danger faced by troops on smaller deployments—or marginalize their missions. Any American in uniform, no matter where he or she is based, is in harm’s way. However, displaying every deployment would require us to highlight virtually everywhere from Albania to Zimbabwe. As CRS reports, the U.S. military has a presence in 144 nations.  

Southwest Asia/Middle East

Iraq                              168,000
U.S. forces are fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq, training the Iraqi military and supporting the Iraqi government in its efforts to forge a sustainable political structure. In addition to the U.S., there are 26 countries with military forces deployed in Iraq, numbering 11,830 personnel. More than 4,130 coalition forces have been killed, including more than 3,830 Americans.[1]   

Afghanistan                  24,800
U.S. forces are conducting counterinsurgency and stability operations in Afghanistan. In addition, U.S. forces are fighting the remnants of al Qaeda. About 20,000 non-U.S. forces are deployed in Afghanistan, mostly from NATO nations. About 700 coalition forces have been killed, including 445 Americans. 

Kuwait                         16,500
Thousands of U.S. forces have been based in Kuwait since its liberation during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The country is a logistical hub and staging area for U.S. operations in Iraq.  

Bahrain                         1,389
Bahrain has been a base for U.S. naval activity since 1947. As a recent State Department report explains, Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Qatar                            512
CENTCOM’s forward headquarters is located at Camp As Sayliyah.

 Egypt                            425
The U.S. contributes an infantry battalion to the Multinational Force and Observers’ mission in the Sinai,[2] which also includes peacekeepers from Canada, France, Australia, New Zealand and Italy. According to the State Department, “Units of the U.S. 6th Fleet are regular visitors to Egyptian ports.” In addition, U.S. troops routinely deploy to Egypt for combined military exercises, including Operation Bright Star, the largest military exercise in the region.

Saudi Arabia                 274
More than 500,000 U.S. forces were deployed in Saudi Arabia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As many as 4,500 U.S. troops remained in the kingdom in mid-2003, when Washington initiated a major recalibration of its force structure in the region.

U.A.E.                                     87+
According to the State Department, the U.A.E. “hosts more U.S. Navy ships than any port outside the U.S.”


Republic of Korea         27,114
U.S. forces first arrived in southern Korea in 1945 for postwar occupation. After the Korean War of 1950-1953, the United States and Republic of Korea signed a Mutual Defense Treaty. The State Department notes that the “Army’s Second Infantry Division and several Air Force tactical squadrons” are based in Korea. U.S. force levels have fallen by 9,000 in the last three years.[3]

Kyrgyzstan                   1,000
The U.S. deployed personnel to this former Soviet republic after 9/11 to support operations in Afghanistan. According to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. personnel use Kyrgyzstan’s Manas International Airport to provide “air combat power projection throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility.” Elements of the French and Italian air forces also operate from the base.

Diego Garcia                 240+
Home to joint Air Force and Navy units, including a U.S. Navy Support Facility, this British-administered island in the Indian Ocean has played a crucial role in U.S. force projection since 1971, with U.S. bombers and tankers flying from Diego Garcia in support of numerous operations.[4]Time magazine recently estimated that 1,700 personnel were based on Diego Garcia.[5]

Singapore                      116
A Navy logistics unit was established in Singapore in 1992. As the State Department reports, “U.S. fighter aircraft deploy periodically to Singapore for exercises,” and U.S. Navy vessels are authorized to berth at the Changi Naval Base.

Thailand                        114
According to the State Department, “Thailand and the United States have developed a vigorous joint military exercise program.” Under the Cobra Gold exercises, for example, U.S. forces participate in large-scale maneuvers in and around Thailand each year, along with Thai, Singaporean, Japanese and Indonesian forces.


Japan                            50,000
The State Department calls Japan “the cornerstone of U.S. security interests in Asia.” According to a recent State Department report, Japan hosts a carrier battle group, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, the 5th Air Force and elements of the Army’s I Corps. Approximately half of U.S. forces in Japan are based in Okinawa.

Hawaii                          35,874
Major units of the U.S. military are based in Hawaii, which, due to its proximity to hotspots in Asia, is akin to a forward-deployed position.

Guam                           2,828
Guam hosts a number of critical Navy and Air Force facilities and military units. As a recent analysis by Newsweek detailed, these include bombers, refueling aircraft, attack submarines and Navy SEALs, with plans in the works to deploy F-22 fighter-bombers, aircraft carriers and 20,000 additional troops.[6]

Australia                       711
As the State Department notes, Australia and the U.S. conduct a variety of joint military exercises “ranging from naval and landing exercises at the task-group level to battalion-level special-forces training to numerous smaller-scale exercises...The two countries also operate joint defense facilities in Australia.”

Philippines                     111
Small detachments of U.S. forces arrived in the Philippines in late 2001 to train—and in some cases, assist—the Philippine army in its fight against terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. A U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force operates on the islands of Basilan and Jolo.


Djibouti             2,038
CJTF-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) has operated out of Camp Lemonier since May 2003, conducting humanitarian, training and military operations. The area of responsibility for CJTF-HOA includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen. The U.S. is expanding Camp Lemonier from its current 97 acres to nearly 500 acres, according to CJTF-HOA. A regiment of French marines is also based nearby.

Other                            300+
Special-operations units have been at work across Africa since 9/11. As The Washington Post reported in 2005, programs such as the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative provide training, equipment and intelligence to militaries in Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Jane’s Defense reports that elements of the 3rd Special Forces Group are in Mali. The U.S. presence in Africa is likely to increase, given the creation of Africa Command.[7]


Germany                       58,894
t the height of the Cold War, nearly 300,000 American troops were deployed in Germany. Even as the number of U.S. forces in Germany falls, the country will likely remain a hub for the U.S. military, serving as a bridge to and from the Middle East. The Army and Air Force rely on permanent airbases, garrisons and hospitals throughout Germany. As Time magazine has pointed out, Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases “are the largest military communities outside the U.S.” About 20,000 British forces are also based in Germany, although they are in the midst of a drawdown.

United Kingdom            10,152
The RAF facility at Lakenheath houses the 48th Fighter Wing’s F-15Es and F-15Cs, a squadron of search and rescue helicopters, and nearly 5,700 active-duty personnel. RAF Mildenhall is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 100th Air Refueling Wing; European Command’s standing air component headquarters (16th Air Force); 501st Combat Support Wing;352nd Special Operations Group; 95th Reconnaissance Squadron; 488th Intelligence Squadron; 727th Air Mobility Squadron; and a Naval Air Facility. Hundreds of U.S. personnel and civilians are based at RAF Menwith Hill,[8] which is of growing importance to the international missile defense system (IMD).

Italy                              10,216+
The U.S. Army Garrison at Vicenza includes the Southern European Taskforce and 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The U.S. Army Garrison at Livorno features military intelligence and field support units. Aviano Air Base is home to the U.S. Air Force 31st Fighter Wing and its two F-16 fighter squadrons. Naples serves as the home port for the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet. The State Department reports that U.S. military deployments in Italy range as high as 13,000 personnel.

Bulgaria                        <2,500
According to the State Department, U.S. forces began deploying to Graf Ignatievo Airbase, Bezmer Airbase and a training facility as part of Joint Taskforce East in mid-2007. Deployment numbers are expected to reach as high as 2,500 U.S. troops.

Turkey                          1,668
The U.S. Air Force has relied on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey since the 1950s, deploying cargo planes, fighters, tankers and bombers from this strategically located base. The Wall Street Journal recently noted that 70 percent of the U.S. military’s Iraq-bound air cargo passes through Turkey.

Kosovo/Serbia               1,395
U.S. troops operating out of Camp Bondsteel in southeastern Kosovo support a NATO-led peacekeeping force of 16,000 troops known as KFOR.[9]

Spain                            1,410
The Navy reports that U.S. Naval Station Rota is strategically “located near the Strait of Gibraltar and at the halfway point between the United States and Southwest Asia.” U.S. forces are also deployed at Moron Air Base, which is home to the 712th Air Base Group and serves as a key refueling facility for Air Force assets traveling to and through Europe.

Belgium                        1,379
The U.S. has a cluster of assets in Belgium, among them: NATO headquarters in Mons, where an American always serves as military commander; Chièvres Air Base, which is manned by the Army and supports the Supreme Allied Commander Europe; and the U.S Army Garrison-Belgium.

Romania                       <900
Nearly 900 U.S. troops have been deployed to Romania (from bases in Germany) to support Taskforce Deep Steel, as the Stars and Stripes reported in late 2007. The U.S. is building new facilities at a Romanian airbase to accommodate up to 2,000 troops.  

Portugal                        865
According to the State Department, Lajes Air Base in the Azores plays an important role in supporting U.S. military aircraft engaged in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 65th Air Base Wing is stationed at Lajes, along with units such as the 729th Air Mobility Squadron. In addition, Portugal provides the U.S. access to Montijo Air Base and several seaports.

Netherlands                  562
As part of the U.S. Army Garrison-BENELUX, the 80th Support Group maintains a subordinate 254th Base Support Battalion in Schinnen. In this hemisphere, the U.S. Air Force supports drug interdiction, surveillance and refueling missions from Forward Operating Location Curacao (Dutch Antilles).

Greece                         354
The State Department reports that Greece allows the U.S. to operate “a naval support facility that exploits the strategically located deep-water port and airfield at Souda Bay in Crete.”

Bosnia-Herzegovina      207
In 1995, 20,000 U.S. troops were deployed to Bosnia as part of a NATO-led peacekeeping force. In December 2004, these responsibilities were handed off to the European Union, which, as CRS reports, is supported by a NATO headquarters unit where the remaining U.S. troops are based.[10]

Greenland                     138
Air Force units at Thule Air Base on this Danish territory play a central role in missile warning and space surveillance. Thule Air Base promises to grow in importance as IMD comes online.

Coming soon: 

Poland                          200+
The IMD’s bed of ground-based interceptors, which will be based in Poland, will be manned by 200 personnel, according to Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency. In addition, it will require an unspecified number of “force protection personnel.”

Czech Republic             TBD
The IMD’s midcourse radar, which will be based in the Czech Republic, will require an unspecified number of “force protection personnel.”

Latin America/Caribbean

Southern Command       5,000
As Maj. Gen. Sherlock explained in 2007, this figure is largely a function of exercises such as PANAMAX, a training exercise involving troops from 19 nations. In 2007, as detailed by SOUTHCOM, U.S. units of up to 450 troops also participated in humanitarian operations in Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala and Panama.

Cuba                            903
JTF-GTMO maintains the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, where an estimated 339 detainees from various fronts of the Global War on Terror are held.

Honduras                      412
JTF-Bravo operates out of Soto Cano Air Base. According to the Air Force, the taskforce includes a mobile surgery team, communications specialists and a small security detail. It conducts counterdrug missions and promotes regional security.

Puerto Rico                   144
The U.S. Army Garrison at Ft. Buchanan bills itself as “the only Department of Defense installation in the Caribbean Basin area.”

Colombia                      124+
According to CRS, the majority of U.S. military personnel in Colombia are from the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group. Up to 200 special-operations forces are regularly deployed as trainers, with as many as 200 additional troops providing support.

North America

CONUS                       876,378
If it seems the U.S. is stretching itself thin, historian Derek Leebaert reminds us that in 1963, the U.S. had a million troops “stationed at more than 200 foreign bases.” Today, 63.8 percent of America’s active-duty personnel are based in the continental United States (CONUS), and nearly 68 percent are based somewhere in the 50 states. It should be noted that some 3,000 National Guard personnel are deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of Operation Jumpstart, which supports theBorder Patrol.

Alaska                          19,957
Major units of the U.S. military are based in Alaska, which, due to its proximity to hotspots in Asia, is akin to a forward-deployed position.

Canada                         143
The State Department notes that U.S. defense arrangements with Canada include the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, NATO commitments and cooperative continental air defense.


At sea/in port                115,800+
At any given time, there are tens of thousands of U.S. forces designated as “afloat.” According to CRS, this designation includes personnel at sea or in temporary ports.

[1] US Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “Iraq Weekly Status Report,” October 10, 2007; CNN, “US and coalition casualties,” September 2007.

[2] David McKeeby, “Sinai peacekeepers are the quiet success of Camp David Accords,” State Department Information Service, USINFO.STATE.GOV, September 19, 2007.

[3] Christian Caryl, “America's Unsinkable Fleet,” Newsweek, Feb. 26, 2007.

[4] See Daniel L. Haulman, “Footholds for the Fighting Force,” Air Force magazine, February 2006; Richard J. Newman, “Tankers and Lifters for a Distant War,” Air Force Magazine, January 2002.

[5] Massimo Calabresi, “Postcard: Diego Garcia,” Time, Sept. 13, 2007.

[6] Christian Caryl, “America's Unsinkable Fleet,” Newsweek, Feb. 26, 2007.

[7] See Ann Scoot Tyson, “US pushes anti-terrorism in Africa,” Washington Post, July 26, 2005; Nathan Hodge, “Training programmes signal deepening US ties with West Africa,” Jane’s Defense, September 7, 2007, www.janes.com/news/defence/land/jdw/jdw070907_1_n.shtml.

[8] See Royal Air Force, http://www.raf.mod.uk/structure/rafmenwithhilladministration.cfm.

[9] Defense Department, “Other Operations & Exercises,” DeployMed ResearchLINK, www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/deploymed/main.jsp?majorDeployment=other.

[10] Defense Department, “Other Operations & Exercises,” DeployMed ResearchLINK, www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/deploymed/main.jsp?majorDeployment=other.