Thousands of American soldiers, sailors and marines are heading from the United States to the Persian Gulf region. This as the Bush Administration appears to be moving closer to a possible war with Iraq. Britain also has ordered a task force of ships to the Gulf and thousands of Royal Marines. France had also told its troops to be ready for a possible deployment to the region. Our Chris Simkins now with more on the U.S. military buildup.
American might in the Persian Gulf region is growing larger. In the United States, the Defense Department announced major troop deployments this week.
Officials say there are currently 65,000 military personnel in the Gulf region now. They say that number will grow to 200,000 by next month. Military Analyst Anthony Cordesman says it’s the biggest combat force mobilization since the 1991 Gulf War.
“It doesn’t tell us that we are fully committed to war but we are certainly going into the combat buildup phase.”
In addition to the troop deployments a group of U.S. military commanders who would run a land, air and sea war are leaving for their command base in Qatar.
In Washington, President Bush said little about the troop movements but kept the pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to destroy his weapons of mass destruction.
“For the sake of peace he must disarm. the United Nations has clearly said that. It is in our nation’s interest that he disarms. He is a threat to the American people he is a threat to our friends and neighbors in the Middle East.”
In Baghdad Saddam Hussein remained defiant meeting with his military generals in preparation for a military attack by the United States.
Later in a televised address, commemorating Iraq’s Army day, he said his forces were fully prepared for war. Using defiant language he also accused the United States of pursuing reckless policies of greed and expansionism.
Back in the United States there were tearful good-byes for those leaving their loved ones and heading to the Gulf region.
This is only the second time Soldier Junior Joseph has been away from his wife.
“The feeling of leaving the family behind, well you know you are coming back but you hope you’re coming back safe to see them again. So its pretty much just leaving it behind, knowing you are going to miss them a lot.”
Junior Joseph is one of some 15,000 Army Infantry soldiers heading to the Gulf. These troops, who specialize in desert warfare, are leaving to join their combat brigades already in Kuwait. Much of their combat equipment such as tanks, heavy artillery and assault helicopters is already in the region.
Meanwhile in California, Sailors and Marines prepare to sail aboard Navy warships to the Persian Gulf. Marine Corporal Alex Uribe says it’s an emotional time but he’s prepared for a possible mission in Iraq.
“I’ve been waiting for a while because the training period takes a while and finally we’re leaving but it’s still sad to be leaving.”
In addition to the troops leaving for the Gulf region, U.S. Defense officials also ordered a massive mobilization of reserve and National Guard soldiers from eight U.S. states.
Military Analysts believe the latest buildup in the Gulf could eventually involve as many as 250,000 troops, but they say any American led invasion force in Iraq would be much smaller than during the Gulf war more than a decade ago.