New U.S. Troops Deployed Near Iraq, More on the Way
KUWAIT (AP) _ American soldiers fanned out across the desert for live-fire exercises near the Iraqi border today, and more troops headed to join them as the United States kept the pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The confrontation between the United States and Iraq has eased in the past week, but the Americans continue their military buildup in the Gulf.
Two planeloads of U.S. soldiers arrived in Kuwait on Thursday from Fort Hood, Texas, and more were expected over the next few days. Some 3,500 soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division were ordered to Kuwait by President Clinton to augment a force of 1,200 who have been conducting war games in the desert since August.
``The bad news is that we have to do it,″ said Army Col. Robert Pollard. He said Saddam ``continues to flex his muscles, therefore we have to continue to deploy our forces, first to keep the peace in the region and secondly to protect national interests in the region.″
The latest crisis in Iraq erupted Aug. 31 when Saddam sent troops to help the Kurdistan Democratic Party take control of the Kurdish safe haven in northern Iraq. The Americans responded with cruise missile strikes on military targets in southern Iraq.
Iraq has been using radar to track U.S. aircraft patrolling the ``no-fly″ zones over northern and southern Iraq since then, but it has not fired on any planes in the past week.
The zones were established at the end of the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south.
More than 30,000 U.S. military personnel will soon be in the Gulf _ compared to fewer than 20,000 before the crisis began three weeks ago. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are the only Gulf states hosting large numbers of American forces, with several thousand U.S. personnel in each country.
U.S. troops revved up tanks and other armored vehicles that had been stored at Camp Doha, outside the capital, Kuwait City, before heading out to the site of the war games.
Nearby, another contingent of U.S. troops were at a Patriot missile unit, its desert-brown launchers pointed toward Iraq.
Most of the U.S. personnel are deployed on about 35 ships in the Gulf, including two aircraft carriers, the USS Enterprise and the USS Carl Vinson.
In Washington, CIA Director John Deutch said the Kurdish faction leader who forged a temporary alliance with Saddam Hussein to rout a rival Kurdish faction is now seeking U.S. protection.
``Mr. (Massoud) Barzani is urgently asking for our assistance to make sure that he doesn’t become too dependent on Saddam Hussein,″ Deutch said.
Barzani met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau in Turkey on Wednesday.
Deutch also told the Senate Intelligence Committee that sanctions imposed after the Gulf War haven’t weakened Saddam’s hold on power and Iraq’s military might still threatens its neighbors.
In another development, there were conflicting claims Thursday about the shelling of a refugee camp in northwest Iran that is hosting Iraqi Kurds who fled the recent turmoil.
Iran claims eight Kurdish refugees were killed Wednesday, and blames the Iraqi army and KDP forces.
The international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said 10 people were killed and 43 wounded by artillery rounds at the Siran Band camp. The organization said a two-member team witnessed the attack while setting up a dispensary at the camp.
The U.N. refugee agency in Geneva said today 11 refugees were killed and 46 were wounded.
On the Iraqi side of the border, a KDP commander denied shelling the Iranian camp.
``That’s all lies. We haven’t attacked that camp,″ Ghazi Atrushi said. ``We have strict orders not to attack the refugee camps.″
Iran said the camp shelters about 35,000 Iraqi Kurd refugees.