Expanded Accommodation “Does Not Mean Permanent Army Base”
Accommodation for armed forces at Keflavík Airport is set to expand in order to house up to 300 more troops, Vísir reports. A newly-commissioned land-use plan for the area carried out by the Icelandic Coast Guard outlines plans to add four buildings that could house up to 70 troops each. Presence of foreign forces in Iceland has increased in recent years, mostly connected to surveillance activity.
Short-term accommodation for 1,000
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs instructed the Coast Guard to prepare a land-use plan for Keflavík Airport’s security area, which was published June 19. The area is divided into a western and eastern zone. In the western zone, authorities plan to install containers to provide short-term accommodation for up to 1,000 people. The eastern zone already includes short-term accommodation for up to 200, but the Coast Guard’s plan calls for the addition of four new buildings housing around 70 troops each.
Increased submarine surveillance
When asked for the reasoning behind this large-scale development, the Foreign Ministry’s Public Relations Officer Sveinn Guðmarsson answered that the current accommodations at the site are to small and unsuitable. “Often the number of foreign forces are well over 200, and it happens that the number goes well over 400.”
“Some groups come here with short notice. The presence of foreign forces has increased in recent years, for example due to increased activities in connection with submarine surveillance.” Sveinn says it is ideal for forces to have accommodation within the security area, due to air policing and practice drills. Forces have previously had to stay at hotels in the Suðurnes region or in the capital area due to a lack of space.
More funds for defence
Iceland upped its defence budget by 37% this year. The United States government has also allocated ISK 6 billion ($47.9 million/€42.7 million), for the design and construction of the new security area at Keflavík Airport. US Lieutenant General Richard Clark, who visited Iceland last year, described the country as “hugely important.”
Despite the extensive development at Keflavík, Sveinn says the US Army’s plans do not include a permanent presence in the country.