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Franks: Forces Ready for Military Action in Iraq

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2003 – The U.S. Army general who would lead any troops into battle in Iraq said today that America's forces in the region are trained, ready and capable.

"If the president of the United States decides to undertake military operations there is no doubt we will prevail," said Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were quick to caution during a Pentagon media briefing that President Bush has not yet decided to use military force to disarm Iraq.

The media have speculated that the United States is not ready to go to war in Iraq because Turkey has been reluctant to allow U.S. troops to be based in that country. Turkey shares its southern border with Iraq, so a cooperative Turkey could provide a valuable route into northern Iraq.

Rumsfeld today refused to criticize the NATO ally, saying Turkey is a democracy and entitled to make its own decisions. "What they may ultimately decide remains to be seen," he said. "In any event, we have 'work-arounds.'"

Franks assured that the U.S. military could respond to any mission required of it - even if Turkey doesn't allow the staging of several thousand troops on its soil. If military action is called for, Franks said, "we are in a position to provide a military option."

Rumsfeld also thanked the government of Pakistan for its continued assistance in the war on terrorism, particularly the capture this week of senior al Qaeda terrorist leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The secretary said this demonstrates that regardless of attention paid to Iraq, America is still committed to finishing the job of assisting the government of Afghanistan to build a stable country.

"It's worth noting that this weekend's arrest came at the same time that coalition forces were flowing into the Persian Gulf region in support of the diplomatic efforts and in preparation for possible military action in Iraq," Rumsfeld said. "Any who suggest that a determination to disarm Iraq would distract us from the global war on terror would be wrong."

He said that just because the war on terrorism isn't in the headlines doesn't mean it's not a priority. "The global war on terrorism is like an iceberg," Rumsfeld said. "Ninety percent of what's going on is below the water, and all that is visible is a much smaller five or 10 percent."

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