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U.S. Returns Key Base to Kuwaitis

The U.S. military Wednesday handed back to the Kuwaitis most of a camp that served as the headquarters for the buildup to the invasion of Iraq.

Camp Doha, 12 miles west of Kuwait City, was the location for command and control of the massive buildup of forces that culminated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. The camp became the U.S. military's main base in Kuwait after the 1991 Gulf War.

Soldiers and equipment have been moved from two-thirds of Camp Doha to the newer and larger Camp Arifjan, south of the capital, now the main logistics base for the American military here. The military will vacate the rest next year.

"It is hard to give up 2 million square feet after you've been here for 15 years," said Lt. Col. Scott Rubitsky, the camp's commander.

"We are happy to be able to reposition to support our troops forward, but we are also a little bit sad that we have to leave our home," he said.

The camp, a complex of warehouses belonging to a private company, was leased by Kuwait's Ministry of Defense for American forces after the 1991 Gulf War that liberated this small oil-rich Gulf state from a seven-month Iraqi occupation.

Kuwait became a major ally of Washington after the Gulf War. Shortly afterward, the country signed a defense pact with the U.S. that allowed military equipment to be kept there for any future military conflict.

Some 10,000 U.S. troops are serving in Kuwait, but the figure fluctuates as troops rotate in and out of Iraq.