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U.S. Limits Assistance to East Timor

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 1999 – The United States will contribute limited, but essential assistance to the Australian-led U.N. security force in East Timor, President Clinton announced here Sept. 16.

About 200 American troops will deploy in support of the multinational effort dubbed ‘Operation Warden’ by the Australians. The total force will include about 7,500 troops, more than half from Australia, Clinton said. The U.N. Security Council approved a peacekeeping force in a unanimous vote Sept. 14.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen signed the order authorizing U.S. troops to deploy in support of the operation within 48 hours, Pentagon officials said following the president's announcement. Australian forces will enter East Timor first to provide force protection and then call in other support forces as they need them.

U.S. forces will provide communications, logistical aid, intelligence, airlifts of personnel and material and coordination of the humanitarian response, Clinton said. About half the American troops will serve on the ground in East Timor.

"I am especially encouraged that Asian nations will be taking the primary responsibility," Clinton said. In addition to Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, France and Canada have also expressed an interest in participating.

Helping to resolve the crisis in Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world, is in America's interest, the president said. "Indonesia's future is important to us not only because of its resources and its sea lanes, but for its potential as a leader in the region and the world," he said. All Asians and Americans have an interest in a stable, democratic, prosperous Indonesia.

"Our fundamental values are also at stake in East Timor," Clinton explained. "The election on August 30 was conducted fairly under the leadership of the United Nations with the agreement of the Indonesian government. It produced a clear mandate for independence. The violence since is abhorrent to all of us who care about human decency and democracy."

Darwin, Australia, will serve as a the main support base and staging area for the peacekeepers, Vice Adm. Scott Fry, Joint Staff director for operations, said at the Pentagon. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Castellaw, deputy commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, will head the U.S. contingent made up mainly of U.S. personnel from U.S. Pacific Command.

A 15-person planning team from Pacific Command is already in Australia and a four-person logistics planning team is moving in to help with the flow of troops and equipment into Darwin, Fry said. Up to 100 U.S. personnel will provide intelligence support and another 30 will operate communications equipment. About 25 personnel civil affairs personnel will help the Australians establish a civil- military operation center.

The United States will provide strategic lift for the multinational operation. U.S. Air Force C-5's, C-17's and C-130s will fly outsized cargo and helicopters into Darwin. "We've encouraged contributing nations to move their own troops into the area," Fry said, "however we will consider on a case-by-case basis a request to provide lift for troops."

The United States will also provide sea-based helicopter support. "There are two ships operating in the vicinity of East Timor right now," Fry said, "the USNS Kilauea, which has two SH-46 helicopters on board; and USS Mobile Bay, an Aegis cruiser that has an SH-60."

More American service members may be deployed in the future. "The 200 is not a ceiling right now," Fry said. As the operation gets underway and the Australians look at the capabilities they need, the United States may be asked to contribute assets that aren't as readily available from other nations, he said.

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