'We're not Leaving,' Cohen Says of U.S.-Middle East Ties
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Nov. 16, 2000 Terrorist attacks such as the Oct. 12 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole will not chase the United States out of the Middle East nor undermine U.S. military security agreements with nations throughout the region, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said.
Speaking to reporters Nov. 15 while en route here, Cohen said the United States will remain engaged globally. "Our security depends upon it," he said. "We intend to take whatever measures are necessary for force protection, but also to apprehend those responsible and hold them accountable. So, we're not leaving."
The secretary is on his ninth trip to the Middle East, where he will visit with U.S. troops and also meet regional leaders to discuss bilateral security issues, according to senior defense officials. In addition to Bahrain, the week-long mission includes scheduled stops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
Cohen praised the effort of U.S. service members worldwide and said he looks forward to visiting Navy 5th Fleet sailors of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln while here. "I want to thank them for their service, remind them that we understand … they are moving, operating in a very dangerous region of the world," he said.
The secretary also lauded the bravery of the sailors aboard the stricken Cole. "Go back and review what took place (on the ship) during and after the (explosion)," he said. "It tells you how heroic these young people are who are defending our country."
The Navy, FBI and DoD's Cole Commission are investigating the terrorist bombing in Aden, Yemen, that killed 17 sailors and injured dozens more. While force protection measures have been beefed up throughout the world, Cohen said, he noted there "is no perfect security."
So far, he remarked, there are no definite leads to the people or group that attacked the Cole, but terrorist Osama bin Laden's name has been mentioned.
"At this point, we don't know," Cohen said. "Certainly, we don't exclude him as a suspect. I think the Cole attack was a plan that has been long in the making, that it is part of an effort to try and drive to United States away from its global commitments and out of the (Middle East). That's simply not going to take place."