The US military is exploring the possibility of using a Red Sea port in Saudi Arabia and an additional two airfields in the kingdom amid heightened tensions with Iran, the Pentagon says.
While describing the work as "contingency" planning, the US military said it already has tested unloading and shipping cargo overland from Saudi Arabia's port at Yanbu, a crucial terminal for oil pipelines in the kingdom.
Using Yanbu, as well as air bases at Tabuk and Taif along the Red Sea, would give the US military more options along a crucial waterway that has come under increased attack from suspected mine and drone boat attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels.
However, the announcement comes as Saudi-US relations remain strained by the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the kingdom's ongoing war in Yemen in the first days of US President Joe Biden's administration.
Deploying - even temporarily - US troops to bases in the kingdom, which is home to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, could reignite anger among extremists.
The Gulf Arab countries are home to a vast array of US military bases, the legacy of the 1991 Gulf War in which US-allied forces expelled Iraq from Kuwait and the later 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The US pulled its forces out of Saudi Arabia after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Australian Associated Press