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Cohen Checks Out Power Projection in the Gulf

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

CAMP DOHA, KUWAIT, June 18, 1997 – About 15 hours after 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, left Fort Hood, Texas, in mid-June, the mechanized infantry unit married up with armor equipment prepositioned here and headed for the field.

The deployment was a premier example of America's ability to move strong, highly trained forces overseas quickly, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said June 16.

Getting combat forces from the United States to the Middle East in that amount of time was a remarkable demonstration of U.S. power-projection capability, he said. This is critical to maintaining security in a region where Iran and Iraq continue to pose a threat, he told troops stationed here.

"Saddam Hussein has not given up his goal of trying to break the sanctions we have imposed upon him," Cohen said. "He's constantly probing any which way he can to find any weaknesses in our force levels and in the solidarity of our allies.

"We have a long-standing relationship and strong bond of friendship with the Kuwaiti people. I can summarize the U.S. policy toward Kuwait in three words: commitment, cooperation and containment."

U.S. troops demonstrate this policy every day, enforcing no-fly and no-drive zones in southern Iraq and conducting training exercises with Kuwaiti forces, he said. U.S. troops here are not only warriors, they are also American ambassadors.

At any one time, an average of about 2,200 American troops are at Camp Doha, 35 miles from Kuwait's border with Iraq. This includes more than 1,000 soldiers, and about 1,200 sailors, airmen and Marines, a base spokesman said.

According to Cohen, Camp Doha's permanent party and deploying troops have an important mission: protecting vital American interests.

"We are not here protecting one country," Cohen told about 300 troops gathered to hear him speak. "Much of the developed world depends upon the resources here in the Persian Gulf. When there is a threat to the access to those resources, it is a threat to our national security."

Cohen recalled an old expression: "You can't win at the negotiating table what you can't win on the battlefield."

"You are the muscle behind our diplomats," he said. "You're what gives our diplomats the strength to sit down at the table and reach agreements. If you don't have that military strength -- that steel in the sword of freedom -- then you are less able to win anything at the bargaining table."

Cohen said he just spent two days at NATO headquarters in Brussels. While there among the NATO allies and Partnership for Peace representatives, he said, "one thing came through loud and clear -- the American military is looked upon with the greatest respect.

"We are the most responsible force in the world, and that's because we're the most prepared, the most ready, the strongest and the most dedicated. This sends a signal to our allies that we are reliable and we are prepared. It also sends a signal to our potential enemies that they better carefully calculate exactly what they're undertaking when they decide to challenge the United States."

Checking out America's power-projection capability was only one objective of Cohen's visit. He also checked on security at the camp.

"Force protection is just as important as power projection," he said. "Your security is uppermost in our minds. I came out here today to satisfy myself that you are ready and prepared to go to battle at a moment's notice and that you are secure. We know what's happened in the past. We want to make sure -- to the best of our ability -- it doesn't happen in the future."

Along with visiting some of the 22,000 U.S. forces stationed throughout the region, Cohen's visit was intended to reinforce existing ties between the United States and Middle Eastern allies and emphasize America's commitment to protecting vital U.S. interests.

Kuwait provides base facilities and contributes $180 million a year to pay for the U.S. military's food, fuel and other supplies.

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