Kuwait becomes an armed camp as US prepares to go back into action (INDEPENDENT UK) By Andrew Gumbel, in Los Angeles 12/09/02)
INDEPENDENT UK Articles-Index-Top
War may not have been declared, but the mobilisation against Iraq is
already well under way.
The latest figures from US Central Command suggest that 60,000
American troops are already stationed in the Gulf region. A total of
12,000 are in Kuwait twice as many as there were a few weeks ago.
Others are stationed in Qatar ready for the computerised war games
starting today, or on one of the vessels making up the 5th Fleet´s
fully primed aircraft-carrier battle group.
And alongside the men is the hardware tanks, armoured fighting
vehicles and artillery pieces. Mostly, these have been taken into the
Gulf by transport ship. Some of the lighter items, including
satellite technology, prefabricated barracks and warehouses, have
also been ferried in by cargo plane, with the daily requirements for
food, toiletries and other essentials.
According to the latest eyewitness reports, Kuwait has been converted
to a US armed camp. A total of 1,600 square miles a quarter of the
surface area of the country is taken up by American military
personnel and equipment.
And all this is but a foretaste of what will come if a general
deployment order comes from Washington. The spectacle of the world´s
most powerful military force on the move is likely to be a
breathtaking operation. The best estimates of American plans suggest
that between 100,000 and 250,000 men will have to be brought in by
ship or plane, with heavy equipment and weapons. The US army has
already begun piling tugboats and forklift trucks on to a cargo ship
in Virginia in anticipation of the loading and unloading operations
that might lie ahead.
The deployment would not be quite on the scale of the 1991 Gulf War,
when the military build-up took six months and involved half a
million men under arms double the number being discussed this time
around. The technology of military logistics has changed as well. Do
not expect to see quite the same production-line movement of ships
and men across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean and into the
theatre of war.
In the 1990s, the US acquired about 20 roll-on roll-off transport
ships capable of carrying heavy tanks, artillery and other military
equipment. New transport planes notably C-17s are also playing an
important role in dropping troops into the region.
"We have aircraft that can carry more people and equipment further
and faster than we had in 1990," said Charles Krulak, a former
commandant of the Marine Corps. "We have ships that are far more
capable [and] weaponry has gained even greater lethality, so the
amount you need to transport has been cut down." Various experts,
including Michael O´Hanlon of the Brookings Institute, who has
regularly briefed Congress on the military implications of an
invasion of Iraq, believe that it would take eight to 12 weeks to
deploy a force of 250,000.
If, as recent Pentagon leaks have suggested, the bulk of those
250,000 men are held back until the invasion is well under way, the
time lag between a deployment order and the outbreak of hostilities
could be less than two months. With the troops already on the move,
all sorts of enterprises are moving with them. During the previous
Gulf War, the US Army Corps of Engineers built 23,000 latrines,
10,000 washstands and 16,000 field showers in the desert. A similar
frenzy of temporary building much of it done by local contractors
is likely this time and it has already begun.
Most of the new arrivals in Kuwait are living in tents supplied by
army engineers. For the moment, all their necessities are being flown
in, although the longer they stay the more likely it is that the
military will turn to regional contractors for food and the
construction of living quarters.
One unanswered question is how to fit everyone in. Last time around,
the bulk of the anti-Iraq coalition was based in Saudi Arabia, but
the Saudis have so far refused to be quite so accommodating. That
leaves the small Gulf states Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the
United Arab Emirates to play host to a vast array of military
visitors. The island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is already a
key staging post (as it was in last year´s war against Afghanistan),
and Turkey is likely to be a valuable strategic partner to the north.
Several military strategists have emphasised the importance of
unleashing the initial air strikes as quickly as possible preparing
the way for ground troops as soon as day three, according to some
scenarios so the bulk of the invading force can set up in Iraq.
The availability of air strips is, therefore, crucial. If Saudi
Arabia were to open up its 31 military airfields to the US forces,
the problem would be solved immediately. If it does not, the
Americans will once again have to call on the smaller Gulf states,
most of whom have at least two airfields with long runways the UAE
has eight. Mr O´Hanlon believes that the United States needs at least
15 airstrips, if not 20, to make the operation feasible.
(© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd 12/09/02)
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