Number of U.S. Forces in Gulf Will Decline, Rumsfeld Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
DOHA, Qatar, April 28, 2003 The number of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region will drop as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
Rumsfeld spoke following meetings with Qatari leaders, U.S. Central Command chiefs and Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill. He said he does not know how the forces will be configured in the future, but he does know there will be fewer.
The secretary listed three reasons. First, Operations Northern and Southern Watch are no longer necessary, "and those capabilities can be moved," he said. Coalition aircraft flew the two operations to enforce no-fly zones above the 36th parallel and below the 33rd parallel, respectively, over Iraq to monitor compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Secondly, liberating Iraq required a large number of service members. As operations wind down and the stabilization phase goes into effect, there won't be the same need, he said.
"Third, Iraq was a threat to the region," the secretary said. "And because that threat is gone, we also have the ability to adjust some of our arrangements."
This does not mean the United States will walk out on its allies. "We have good friends and allies in the region and we intend to maintain those arrangements," he said.
Rumsfeld and Hill are both in the Gulf region to congratulate their forces and confer with local leaders. Hill said Australia is particularly pleased with the outcome in Iraq. "We think the threat of weapons of mass destruction is being removed, which was our principal goal," he said.
Hill noted that "a line has been drawn in the sand in relation to weapons of mass destruction" that despots worldwide must recognize. The minister said other states thinking about these weapons now know "they simply can't get away with a game of bluff."
He remarked that Australia's military contributions to the effort have been worthwhile. "We want to thank the United States for its leadership of the coalition," he said. "I think they did a superb job."
Australia is planning to contribute to the stabilization effort in Iraq, the minister said. He is working with the United States to identify "niche" capabilities his country can provide. "For example, today we have 50 air force air-traffic controllers going into help at Baghdad International Airport, and we can get the traffic moving more quickly," he said. "We also will put in WMD people, and we're looking at other areas."