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An article from Le Monde on the buildup of US military forces in the Gulf region:
Translated from Le Monde (Paris), Nov. 1, 2002:


The United States is continuing to intensify a military threat to Iraq that is based on the accumulation of new weapons deployed or about to be deployed in the Gulf region.

So General Tommy Franks, who is commanding possible operations in Iraq at the same time as he directs those in Afghanistan from his headquarters in Tampa, Florida, has decided to supervise personally the transfer to Al-Udeid, in Qatar, of a part of his command post. There, beginning in December, some 600 of his staff will be the advance element of his headquarters.

An expeditionary corps of Ameican marines, amounting to 2200 combatants, has just crossed the Suez canal aboard amphibious vessels to reach Kuwait. It will reinforce the American deployment in that emirate, where there are already 2700 GIs in Kuwait City, the location of the headquarters of American forces there, and 6000 others who are encamped in the desert, near the Iraq border. The expeditionary corps of marines will be reinforced in November by the arrival in Kuwait of two squadrons of Apache attack helicopters, with a force of about 1000, arriving from Germany.

At the end of this week the aircraft carrier Constellation, with its escort vessels, will leave the port of San Diego, California, arriving in the northern Gulf in December to replace the George Washington, which has been cruising there for six months but which could remain in the sector for another month. Two aircraft carriers, the Harry Truman, based in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Kitty Hawk, based in Japan, are expected to join the Constellation in December. So that the American navy should, by the end of the year, have an imposing air-and-sea force deployed facing Baghdad.

Moreover, the Pentagon has secretly sent to two British bases -- Fairford, 60 miles west of London, and Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean -- the logistical means necessary for the arrival of five heavy intercontinental B-2 bombers, designed to dismantle enemy defenses thanks to their stealth.

B-2s -- the United States has built 21 in all at a cost of $2.5 billion each [Trans. note: the figure usually seen is $2.2 billion] -- have already been used in Kosovo in 1999 and above Afghanistan. But they were taking off from their base in Whiteman, Missouri, returning there after their missions. This is the first time, except for earlier training exercises, that the United States has prepared to deploy B-2s outside its national territory.

"We will move this to a forward location so we can cycle the aircraft as rapidly as possible and provide our commander the firepower and the flexibility he needs," explained Col. Doug Raaberg, who commands the B-2 squadron at Whiteman.

The B-2s are specially adapted to strike command and communication centers and air defenses.

Washington has resorted to new means for attacking Iraqi defenses in the north and south of the country. On October 24, General Richard Myers, chairman of the American joint chiefs of staff, revealed that the United States is using armed drones (small pilotless reconnaissance aircraft) against Iraqi targets. These bombings have been conducted by Predators. They began a month and a half ago without the Iraqis identifying the attacker. Conceived by the group General Atomics, the Predator exists in two versions, depending on how it's equipped and the altitude at which it flies (25,000 feet or 39,000 feet) on its missions. It can fly for 24 to 40 hours non-stop and fire Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.

At present drones are accompanying combat planes above Iraq to spot targets for them or -- what is new -- to observe the reaction of Iraqi defenses when American craft loaded with munitions pass over so as to then launch their own missiles. This enables them to respond to a developing threat without losing a pilot.

Jacques Isnard

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Chair, Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447

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Last updated: November 4, 2002