U.S. Military Readies Forces, Works With Iraqi Opposition
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2002 Defense Department leaders are working hard to make sure Saddam Hussein understands the United States means business, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.
The United States has continued work on a humanitarian relief and reconstruction plan for a post-Saddam Iraq, while U.S. forces are working with "friends and allies to keep the military pressure on Iraq," Rumsfeld told reporters in the Pentagon today.
An undisclosed number of active and reserve forces have been warned to prepare for possible military action. Rumsfeld said this doesn't mean President Bush is prepared to order military action, only that U.S. forces need to be prepared to make the threat of such force credible.
"It should indicate to Iraq that the U.S. and its coalition partners are prepared to act if necessary," the secretary said. He added that officials are taking "prudent and deliberate steps" with respect to alerts and mobilizations.
Military preparedness supports diplomatic efforts, Rumsfeld said, stressing that Bush views military force as a last resort.
In many cases, DoD officials have notified reserve forces to be ready without actually mobilizing them. Reserve forces often need longer to prepare to deploy for logistical reasons. Entire units need to be called in and given physicals and dental exams. Often they have to undergo additional training, and there is much paperwork to be done.
"What we're doing is, we're saying, 'Here's an alert order, not that we intend to activate you or mobilize you or deploy you, but we intend to give you an alert so that you can get all that stuff done, so that it won't take 30, 60, 90 days in the event we need your services,'" Rumsfeld said.
U.S. officials are also moving ahead with a plan to train Iraqi opposition forces. Myers noted the Defense Department has allocated just over $9 million to prepare training facilities at an undisclosed location. Published reports have said such training would take place in Hungary, but Rumsfeld and Myers would not confirm that today.
Myers said individuals are being vetted now and U.S. officials hope to begin the initial stages of training shortly after the first of the year.