The senior American general who would command U.S. troops in any military action against Iraq is in Qatar, visiting his forward command center. The visit by General Tommy Franks is part of a tour he is making of several countries in the Middle East.
A spokesman for the forward command at Qatar's As-Sayliyah base told VOA that General Tommy Franks spent his second day in the country meeting with staff and conferring with commanders in the field. The official declined to provide details of the visit or say what other countries the general might visit.
General Franks has not met with the news media on this trip, with the exception of an interview with the American broadcast network, ABC. He told the network on Thursday that if President Bush decides to take military action against Iraq, his forces are ready. "We have sufficient - I use the word capacity, not levels of troops, not counts of bombs - we have the military capacity to do the job that America's military would be asked to do," he said.
The four-star general heads the American military's Central Command that covers 25 countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The command is based in the southeastern state of Florida, but last year it established a forward base in Qatar, to place commanders closer to any military operation in the region.
Before coming to Qatar, General Franks visited Egypt, where he met with President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordan where he met with King Abdullah. His trip comes as U.S. defense officials say the level of U.S. troops in the Gulf region has reached one quarter million soldiers. This includes 140,000 U.S. soldiers in Kuwait and nearly 50,000 troops on warships in the region. The remainder are based in countries neighboring Iraq. The U.S. forces, along with some 50,000 troops from Britain and Australia, are preparing for a possible war against Iraq.