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Study Needed Before Force 'Footprint' Changes in Gulf

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, April 27, 2003 – The footprint of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region will change in the coming months, but it is too soon to say how, defense leaders said following meetings with leaders of the United Arab Emirates today.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Tommy Franks met with Shaykh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and Lt. Gen. Muhammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the chief of staff of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, on the first day of the secretary's visit to the region. Franks heads U.S. Central Command and has led Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Franks said that in each place the secretary and he visit, there is an understanding that with the regime of Saddam Hussein gone, "that in the days and months ahead there will likely be a rearrangement of the footprint in the region."

Forces, for example, are no longer needed for Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch. But Franks said this does not necessarily mean U.S. forces will be reduced.

He would not speculate on the footprint but did indicate the matter needs review. "We're going to be working in Iraq and we're going to be continuing in Afghanistan for some time," he said. "The way I would characterize it is we need to study it. We need to see exactly what footprint will have the highest payoff for us in the future."

Rumsfeld thanked the crown prince and chief of staff for their country's help in the global war on terrorism and its assistance to liberate Iraq.

The secretary stressed the United Arab Emirate's contribution to humanitarian relief in Iraq, noting it was the first country to ship relief supplies - including 700 tons of food, water and medical supplies.

The United Arab Emirates is also sponsoring six hospitals in Iraq and will refurbish and help supply them. The oil-rich country is also building a desalinization plant that will provide 250,000 gallons of water a day when finished. The federation already has some desalinization plants in Umm Qasr providing fresh, clean water to the Iraqi people.

"These humanitarian contributions are important," Rumsfeld said. "They are important to the people of Iraq, they are also important to the future of Iraq and the future of the region, because it is enormously important that the people there see the progress that can be made in a liberated Iraq."

Rumsfeld said that they spoke of the way ahead in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We assured them the United States intends to do what is necessary with our coalition partners to see that there is a secure environment in Iraq," he said. He said that environment would allow the Iraqi people to begin the process of developing an Iraqi interim authority and then ultimately a free government.

He said there is "no question but that the people of the region are a lot safer today than they were with the regime of Saddam Hussein there."

The secretary and Franks addressed charges that Iran is trying to influence the future of Iraq. Franks said that from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom the coalition would not tolerate military interference.

Rumsfeld emphasized the coalition is not going to allow Iran to influence the outcomes in Iraq. "The Iraqi people will make those judgments," he said. "How it evolves remains to be seen. My impression is the Iraqi people will not want to have excessive influence from neighboring countries, that they will want to find an Iraqi solution, not an Iranian one.

"We would not want to see a government like Iran has imposed as the government of Iraq."

The secretary took time to praise Franks for his role in leading the military effort to liberate Iraq. He said the general "has done an absolutely superb job for our country, the people of Iraq and for the people of the region."

He said Franks led "wonderful, well-equipped, well-trained and courageous" troops and that the plan the general and his team put together was "even better than the outcome."

"It was even better in that it had built into it flexibility and a variety of innovative excursions that enabled his team to execute the plan in a way that a host of adverse consequences that could have occurred did not occur," Rumsfeld pointed out. The plan saved coalition and Iraqi lives because of its flexibility and innovative stance, he said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageWAR'S TOP GENERAL -- Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, speaks with reporters outside a hotel in Abu Dhabbi, United Arab Emirates, April 27. Franks accompanied Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a trip to the Persian Gulf region. Defense Dept. photo by Helene C. Stikkel  
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