U.S. force buildup under way; Rumsfeld says this war will be unlike any in memory
WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States is pouring military firepower into the Persian Gulf area in preparation for President Bush’s promised war on terrorism. The Air Force is sending B-52 and B-1 bombers and fighter jets while mobilizing thousands of reservists, and the Army is readying its commando forces.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that although the Gulf is the focus of U.S. deployments right now, the coming fight will look nothing like the knockout punch U.S.-led forces delivered in the 1991 Gulf War. Nor is the use of nuclear weapons being contemplated by the president, a senior Bush administration official said, because terrorist cells are fought on a small scale.
”What we’re engaged in is something that is very, very different from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Bosnia, the kinds of things people think of when they use the word ‘war,’ or ‘campaign,’ or ‘conflict,”’ Rumsfeld said.
He said fighting terrorism will take a long time and, to a degree not seen before, will require economic, financial, diplomatic and political action in addition to military force.
It also will require support from the American public, for whom the prospect of war was brought into clearer focus by the Pentagon’s announcement Thursday that 5,131 members of the Air Force National Guard and Air Force Reserve have been ordered to active duty. They are from 29 units in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
Among the mobilized reserves are a B-52 unit from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and a B-1 bomber unit from Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Most of the rest of the activated units are to be used to strength U.S. continental air defenses.
Rumsfeld has said he expects 35,500 members of the Reserve and National Guard to be called up.
The Pentagon is repositioning military forces to prepare for action, Rumsfeld said, but would not provide details. Other officials said both active and reserve forces are beginning to move.
The Air Force is sending 100 to 130 aircraft to the Gulf region, a senior defense official said, including fighters and B-1 and B-52 bombers. Also, tanker aircraft began deploying from U.S. bases Thursday to establish an ”air bridge” for refueling fighters and bombers as they cross the Atlantic.
The Air Force has fighter aircraft in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Army keeps a virtually permanent presence in Kuwait with soldiers and war materiel sufficient to equip an additional 5,000 troops.
The Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters is on the Gulf island emirate Bahrain. It normally keeps one aircraft carrier on patrol in the Gulf year-round. It now has one in the Gulf and one nearby in the Arabian Sea; a third – the USS Theodore Roosevelt – left port at Norfolk, Va., on Wednesday en route to the Mediterranean. Each carrier has 75 aircraft aboard and is accompanied by a dozen warships.
A contingent of about 2,100 Marines also is in the Gulf, and a similar-size unit is headed in that direction.
The USS Kitty Hawk, the only U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in the western Pacific, left its port in Yokosuka, Japan, early Friday morning local time for an undisclosed location. The carrier has a crew of 5,500 sailors, naval aviators and Marines and typically carries 70 aircraft.
The guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes and guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur departed Yokosuka on Monday. Both can carry Tomahawk cruise missiles as well as anti-aircraft and anti-submarine missiles.
Army Secretary Thomas White said the Army is playing a part in the buildup of U.S. forces abroad and that the Army is prepared to conduct ”sustained land combat operations.”
The Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., said Thursday it had received a deployment order. Details were not provided. The command has a wide array of specialized units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, psychological operations units and seven Special Forces Groups spread out across the United States and the world.
Air Force officials said eight B-52 bombers will deploy from the 917th Bomb Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Minot Air Force Base, N.D., also will contribute B-52s.
Air Force refueling aircraft began deploying Thursday, including KC-135s from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., officials said. Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., with KC-135 refueling planes, also received deployment orders.
Also Thursday, Rumsfeld said the administration was reconsidering the name initially given to the military deployment, ”Operation Infinite Justice,” because in the Islamic faith only Allah can provide infinite justice.
The administration is considering various options, of which a large-scale invasion of Afghanistan is considered least likely by many defense experts. Many believe the insertion into Afghanistan of small teams of special operations forces, such as Army Rangers, is more likely in the effort to hunt down terrorists.
On the Net: Transcript of Rumsfeld news conference: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Sep2001/t09202001-t920ruma.html
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