Military Might Saves the Day
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON Nov. 19, Nov. 19, 1998 Once again, Saddam Hussein backed down when America flexed its military muscle.
With more than 23,500 combat-ready troops, nearly 200 aircraft, and 23 warships on his doorstep and more firepower and manpower on the way, the Iraqi dictator agreed to meet U.N. demands.
"It was the ready show of force that brought Saddam Hussein to the decision that he should capitulate and reverse course and allow the inspectors back in," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Nov. 17.
The latest crisis showed the value of maintaining a forward presence in the region deemed vital to U.S. interests, Bacon said. It also demonstrated the nation's ability to rapidly reinforce the troops, planes and ships already there.
U.S. air and ground units, designated part of the new Continental U.S. Crisis Response Force, began moving to the Persian Gulf last week to provide added flexibility and firepower. The deployment, ordered by the president Nov. 11, stopped in midstream when Iraq vowed to comply with U.N. resolutions.
About 148 aircraft and 4,000 ground troops were in varying stages of deployment over the weekend, Bacon said. "Seven B-52s and four B-1 bombers deployed to the Gulf or to Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island in the Indian Ocean. They will remain there while we evaluate Iraqi compliance," he said.
More than 190 U.S. combat and support aircraft are currently in the Gulf, according to Bacon. This includes aircraft that, along with British and French allies, enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch. Army units also conduct nearly continuous exercises in the region using heavy equipment pre-positioned in Kuwait and elsewhere, Bacon added. About 23,500 U.S. troops are now in the Gulf.
President Clinton's cancellation of military strikes stopped some aircraft and troops en route. About 40 F-16 and F-15 fighters and six F-117 stealth aircraft got to Europe, for example, and halted to await further instructions, Bacon said. En route forces were later ordered to return to the United States and to resume a ready-to-deploy status, he said. Forces that readied but did not deploy were told to remain on alert for quick deployment if called upon, he added.
Since the Gulf War, the United States has kept a "very ready and robust" force in the Gulf, Bacon explained. In June, the force decreased in size from previous levels, but defense officials took several steps to enhance its capabilities.
Previously, an aircraft carrier battle group was in the region about 75 percent of the time. This was upped to a full-time presence. Military leaders doubled the number of cruise missiles in the Gulf and increased the amount of time a Marine amphibious readiness group is present.
"We designated specific air and ground forces in the United States for rapid deployment to the Gulf in time of crisis," Bacon said. "The deployment of the force last week shows that this new identification and alert system we have works very well."