Are Old Pentagon Danger Zones Really Safe Now?
Pentagon cuts extra pay for thousands
Beginning in June, some 50,000 Americans personnel in 20 different zones around the world will no longer receive so-called “imminent danger pay.” But U.S. forces will continue to face risks in many of these regions.
Troops and civilians get a $225 bonus every month for their service in especially hazardous regions. Some 194,189 individuals received the extra pay in Fiscal Year 2012.
Now, the Pentagon expects to be able to save $108 million in danger pay.
According to the Pentagon troops in East Timor, Haiti, Liberia, Oman, Rwanda, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro are safe from regular attacks. Pilots in the skies above the last six countries are also in the clear.
Sailing in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and the Red Sea is now safer as well. The Pentagon also says that flying over the Arabian Sea is no longer perilous.
But Washington doesn’t exactly have a rosy view of some of these places—like Kyrgyzstan, where U.S. troops are seen below.
For example, a recent State Department travel advisory on the Central Asian country tells U.S. employees to stay out of Batken province. The notice also instructs Americans to look out for protests, political violence, organized crime and drug trafficking.
State also warns that there was fighting in 2010 between the government and Islamic insurgents. Washington recommends U.S. citizens avoid the country’s borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
This also may not be the best time to eliminate the special pay for Saudi Arabia. Authorities in the Kingdom recently uncovered a jihadist cell.
The extremists are reportedly linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria organization in Syria, better known as ISIS. This organization has become infamous for its atrocities.
The Syrian civil war and its foreign fighters are clearly spilling back into the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula. Westerners—and U.S. troops especially—could be a prime target and a tempting prize for returning militants.
Of course, these regions could always be declared dangerous again in the future, but this takes time. This new reassessment began three years ago.
The Pentagon finished its previous review in 2007. These new “safe” areas may prove to be anything but secure in another four years.
Still, soldiers in Central Asia, Serbia and Rwanda may be glad to know that they are no longer in official danger zones. The Pentagon says troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Egypt still run the risk of being shot at or blown up on a regular basis.