The United States
is about to lose one of its largest overseas military bases due to the approaching expiration of a lease contract on the British territory of Diego Garcia Island.
Diego Garcia is the largest of 60 small islands in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean and American forces have been using it since mid-1960s, under a lease that will expire December this year.
This is while the two sides have yet to decide on a possible 20-year extension.
London reportedly agreed in 1966 to exchange the island for an $11 million (£7.65m) discount on buying Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
The secretive deal was inked by then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and then US President Lyndon Johnson and both sides soon proceeded to forcefully remove the island’s some 1,500 residents.
Between 1968 and 1973, American officials teamed up with their British colleagues to deport the island’s native inhabitants, or Chagossians, carefully hiding their expulsion from the US Congress, the UK Parliament and the UN.
The residents are now seeking to return to their homeland, a process the KPMG audit company says would cost $95 million (£66) million
During his recent visit to London, US President Barack Obama discussed the matter with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“The PM raised the issue of the British Indian Overseas Territory with the President in the context of the government’s ongoing review of resettlement,” the Daily Mail quoted a Downing Street spokesman as saying.
The Diego Garcia base, also known as Camp Justice, bears great strategic significance due to its geographic location. The Pentagon has been using the base to plan and direct military operations, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The camp is also believed to have been used by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a site for interrogating and torturing terror suspects.
Lawrence Wilkerson, a former US State Department official, has said that the island was used as a “transit location” for the agency to carry out interrogations and other “nefarious activities.”