25,000 U.S. troops headed to gulf (NBC NEWS) By Tammy Kupperman WASHINGTON 12/27/02)
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 — Approximately 25,000 U.S. troops have been
ordered to the Persian Gulf region starting in early January,
military officials told NBC News on Friday, and the Navy has been
ordered to prepare amphibious assault groups and aircraft carriers
for possible action in the gulf, the latest wave in a deployment for
a potential conflict with Iraq, defense officials said.
THE UNITED STATES has warned President Saddam Hussein that he must
comply with the latest U.N. resolution calling for complete
disarmament or face possible military action.
U.N. inspectors have been back in Iraq since late November and U.N.
weapons chief Hans Blix must report on their progress to the Security
Council on Jan. 27. A decision about whether to go to war is not
expected before then, the defense officials said.
Meanwhile, the United States has been gradually building up its
military might in the region. According to U.S. officials, who spoke
on condition of anonymity, most of the 25,000 troops are
logisticians, cargo handlers and other support forces.
Their deployment will increase the U.S. military presence to more
than 80,000 troops. According to the various invasion scenarios, the
United States would need a force of around 250,000 to launch a
successful attack on Iraq.
However, tens of thousands of additional forces — including combat
troops and aircraft — are expected to begin receiving their orders to
deploy just after the New Year.
In addition, a large number of forces have been ordered to “prepare
to deploy,” including a number of Navy ships, officials said.
READY TO GO
These forces have not so far been actually ordered to deploy, but
have been told to be ready to go. They include:
* Two amphibious-ready groups. These are three-ship groups that carry
more than 2,000 Marines. At least one of the groups of ships is based
in San Diego — the USS Tarawa Amphibious Ready Group. Within the next
week or so, in preparation for possible deployment, these amphibious
ships are likely to begin to load ammunition and make other
preparations necessary for a long deployment.
* The hospital ship Comfort, based in Baltimore, Md., was activated
Friday and officials said the vessel is likely to deploy — with a
small crew of fewer than 100 aboard — in early January. Medics and
other hospital staff would link up with the ship once on station. The
Comfort is most likely to take up position off of Diego Garcia, the
British-run island in the Indian Ocean. The voyage to Diego Garcia
could take up to a month.
* The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has had her port visit to
Perth, Australia, extended for several days while a decision is made
whether it should be sent back to port in California, as scheduled.
Officials expect a decision on whether the Lincoln could go still
home and make it back when needed early next week.
* The Navy has been directed to have four aircraft carrier battle
groups ready in the event they are needed for a war with Iraq. They
include the USS Constellation, now in the Gulf, and the Harry S.
Truman, which is deployed in the Mediterranean.
The additional carriers that could deploy to the Gulf in the event
they are needed are the USS Abraham Lincoln, the USS George
Washington, which recently returned to Norfolk, Va., the USS Theodore
Roosevelt, set to used for training exercises off Norfolk next month,
and the USS Kitty Hawk. The Kitty Hawk is based in Japan but can
within 96 hours of receiving an order.
* In addition, additional Air Force aircraft including B1 bombers,
F15E Strike Eagles, A10 Warthogs and F16 Falcons have been alerted to
possible deployment as soon as sometime in January. (MSNBC © 2002
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