Gulf Buildup Ramping Up

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  • Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2002 14:14:06 -0000

(CBS) The United States will have enough heavy tanks, warships,
aircraft, bombs and troops in the Persian Gulf region to enable it to
begin an attack against Iraq sometime in January, senior military
officials tell The New York Times in a story on its Web site late
About 60,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, as well as about 200
warplanes, are in or near the region. The Army alone has 9,000 soldiers,
24 Apache helicopter gunships and heavy equipment for two armored
brigades in Kuwait. Equipment for a third brigade is steadily arriving
on ships usually based in the Indian Ocean, and some material will be
stored at a new $200 million logistics base, Camp Arifjan, south of
Kuwait City, the Times reports. 
By late next week, four aircraft carriers will be poised to strike Iraq
on short notice, with a fifth in Southeast Asia ready to steam to the
gulf in a crisis. Two of the carriers, the George Washington and Abraham
Lincoln, are heading home, but the Navy will keep their crews together
about two weeks longer than the usual 30 days after arrival in case they
are ordered back to the gulf, the newspaper says. 
Special Operations forces in the region are refining plans to hunt for
Scud missiles and clandestine weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. About
1,000 military planners, led by Gen. Tommy Franks, have assembled in
Qatar and other gulf states for a computer-simulated exercise that
begins Monday and is intended as a model for an offensive against Iraq,
officials said to the Times. 
Taken together, these are unmistakable signs that before long, President
Bush will be in a position to order an attack to disarm Iraq and topple
Saddam Hussein, and have it carried out within days, the Times explains,
citing senior military officials 
"The pieces are going into place that are the basic building blocks for
a combination of military options," Sen. John Warner, a Virginia
Republican who will take over the chairmanship of the Armed Services
Committee next month, told the Times. 
Or as one senior defense official put it to the newspaper this week, "We
are rapidly getting to the point where if called upon, we'd be able to
execute operations in Iraq." 
The steady buildup ? brought together with little fanfare by air and by
ship ? is intended to put increasing pressure on the Iraqi government to
disarm, and perhaps to persuade Saddam's generals to defect or rebel
against him, the Times points out. 
"This is really their last chance to decide to either have a peaceful
resolution, which requires giving up those weapons, or have us do it by
force," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said this week in
For now any talk of war is muted as the administration prepares to
review Iraq's declaration, or denial, of any weapons of mass destruction
that it may possess. Officials tell the Times the process of dealing
with Iraq's disclosure ? including any subsequent diplomatic
discussions, further weapons inspections and possibly another United
Nations resolution ? could delay any attack for weeks or months. 
Pentagon officials say the armed forces could attack now, if required,
but several diplomatic and military steps would need to be completed
before the United States could go to war on its own terms, officials
said to the Times. 
The administration wants to use Turkey as a major staging base for
American ground troops, who would swoop into northern Iraq to protect
the vast oil fields of Kurdistan and combine with allied forces pushing
up from Kuwait to put the government in Baghdad in a vise, the Times
But Turkey has balked at permitting ground forces, prompting the White
House to invite Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the largest party in
Turkey's new governing coalition, to meet with President Bush on
"We're quite comfortable with what we can do from the south," Mr.
Wolfowitz said this week. "Obviously, if we are going to have
significant ground forces in the north, this is the country they have to
come through. There is no other option," he told the Times pointedly. 
Britain, another vital ally, is expected to contribute several thousand
armored forces, but has not yet begun to send them, the Times reports. 
American active-duty troops could be flown in quickly aboard chartered
airliners to join their equipment. But any major campaign would require
activating tens of thousands of reservists, largely to help defend
American military bases, power plants and transportation hubs at home
against possible terrorist reprisals. Mobilizing reserve units typically
takes about 30 days, but a senior defense official said to the Times
that the Pentagon was looking at ways to speed up the process. 
The Pentagon has plans to mobilize as many as 265,000 members of the
National Guard and Reserves, roughly as many as for the Persian Gulf war
in 1991, if President Bush orders an attack, the Times has reported.
Senior military officials said large-scale mobilizations would not begin
before January, and even then would probably be made in stages to soften
the political impact. 
The force in place by next month would be large enough to begin the
"rolling start" of an offensive, but additional armored and air forces
would have to be sent from Europe and the United States to sustain a
larger attack that could mass 200,000 to 250,000 American troops, the
Times says. 
"We'd be ready to begin strikes in a meaningful way if told to do so,
but then you'd then have to have a rapid, rapid deployment of additional
forces," one senior Navy official said to the newspaper. 
Throughout the gulf region these days, there is a constant hum of
military preparations. Army forces are conducting exercises in desert
ranges in Kuwait that simulate territory they would roll across in Iraq,
the Times reports. 
Carrier-based jets patrolling the no-flight zone in southern Iraq carry
out mock bombing runs against Iraqi airfields and military bases. Air
Force engineers at Diego Garcia, a British base in the Indian Ocean, are
erecting portable hangars to protect the sensitive radar-evading skin of
the B-2 bombers that will soon be stationed there, CBS News has
Planners are readying the heavy equipment and supplies now aboard ships
at Diego Garcia that would sustain more than 17,000 marines for up to 30
days. Navy Seabees based in Spain have been dispatched to Kuwait for
construction duties at two bases, the Times reports. 
Military logistics and supply experts have been in the region for months
preparing for incoming material. Tugboats, forklifts and other
cargo-handling equipment needed to prepare ports for the arrival of
tanks and other armored equipment are coming in, the Times adds. 
In Kuwait, the Army has two brigades' worth of heavy equipment in place.
A typical armored brigade set includes 88 M1A1 Abrams tanks, 88 M2A2
Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and 16 120 millimeter mortars, an Army
spokeswoman said. 
Equipment from a third brigade stored on ships at Diego Garcia is
flowing in. One of the Navy's giant roll-on/roll-off cargo ships, the
Watkins, disgorged a load of heavy Army equipment in July, and a sister
vessel, the Watson, is on the way with equipment for an armored
battalion task force, the Times quotes Army officials as saying. 
Special Operations forces are planning covert missions that would be
pivotal in the opening hours and days of any campaign. These operations
would include destroying Scud missiles that Iraq could launch at Israel.

"We're doing everything prudent and proactive that we can without
starting a war in the process," one military official told the Times. 
Source:  CBS

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