Gates Meets With Kuwaiti Leaders, U.S. Troops During Middle East Swing
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
KUWAIT CITY, Aug. 1, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here today for his first visit as defense secretary to thank Kuwaiti leaders for their support in the war on terror and to encourage greater cooperation in helping neighboring Iraq stand up its government.
Gates met at the Bayan Palace with Crown Prince Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, Prime Minister Nasir Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah and Foreign Affairs Minister Muhammad al-Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah.
After the meeting, the secretary took a helicopter tour of the area to see vast U.S. military operations here, primarily supporting the war in Iraq.
Army Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, commander of 3rd U.S. Army, accompanied Gates during the tour. Their flight crossed over the Shuaiba seaport, where military equipment arrives by ship, then into the desert to Camp Arifan, a huge logistical hub that supplies troops in Iraq with food, water, equipment-maintenance facilities and other critical support.
Kuwait is a major transit area for troops deploying in and out of Iraq. “We move 700,000 a year, which is the population of Alaska or Baltimore,” Whitcomb said. Between September and December 2006 alone, the operation here moved 240,000 troops, he said.
In addition to keeping warfighters supplied, troops, civilian government employees and contractors based in Kuwait provide deployed forces about to move into Iraq with last-minute training in critical combat skills. Much of that training takes place at Kuwait’s Udairi Range.
“They do some training here for a couple of weeks, then as the schedule requires them to be up north, we fly them up in C-130s,” he said.
Before leaving for the tour, Whitcomb acknowledged to reporters that Gates was able to see “stuff that’s not glitzy or glamorous,” but essential to the mission in Iraq. U.S. efforts in Kuwait “aren’t the centerpiece of this fight,” he said, but they’re “an important piece” of it.
Gates’ visit here is his third stop in a four-day swing through the Middle East to bolster support for Iraq among its Arab neighbors and reassure them that the United States will keep their interests at heart when making decisions about Iraq.
Gates has emphasized that the trip also is aimed toward strengthening U.S. security ties with the region and promoting new ones.
The first two stops on the trip, Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, were joint visits with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They met with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt during a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Sharm el-Sheik.
Last night and earlier today, the secretaries met with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faysal and other Saudi leaders.