Training to seize Iraqi Weapons Sites

Special Forces Command (Airborne)

From Barbara Starr
Saturday, October 19, 2002 Posted: 9:40 AM EDT (1340 GMT)

Sources: Special Forces train to seize Iraqi weapons sites

U.S. Special Forces training in Jordan for possible military action against Iraq.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Special Forces are already training in the Middle East for possible covert missions to undercut Iraq's potential to use weapons of mass destruction in the opening hours of any military action, CNN has learned.

About 1,500 Special Forces troops are training in Jordan. Should the United States take military action against Iraq, sources said Friday, commandos would be inserted behind enemy lines to attempt to seize Iraq's suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons sites.

A senior official told CNN that U.S. forces would "take every kind of potential action against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

One of the most crucial missions for the U.S. forces would be to destroy the dozens of SCUD missiles that the United States believes Iraq may be hiding. During the Gulf War a decade ago, Iraq launched more than three dozen SCUDs, aiming at targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

CNN has learned that if Special Forces troops quickly destroy the weapons sites and SCUD launchers, they will then turn their attention to covert action to disrupt activity inside Iraq, including cutting off power, blocking roads and sabotaging equipment.

The United States has renewed promises to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Persian Gulf allies that the United States will seek to protect them from Iraqi missile attacks, using satellite surveillance and Patriot missile batteries that will be sent into the region.

Special Operations forces have also been given greater authority to go after, capture and kill top al Qaeda leaders.

About 800 U.S. troops have been pre-positioned in the northeast African nation of Djibouti so they can go after al Qaeda leaders that may be hiding in the Horn of Africa.

Other U.S. forces also have been training in Kuwait. About 2,000 Marines have been involved in Operation Desert Spring, a joint U.S.-Kuwait military exercise that has been ongoing since the end of the Gulf War. Some of the 2,000 U.S. Marines participating in Operation Eager Mace came under fire from Kuwaiti civilians earlier this month. One Marine was killed, another injured.

The U.S. military is expanding its operations to Al U-Dayd air base in Qatar and installing a backup air operations center.

Also, the U.S. Central Command in Florida will send up to 1,000 staffers to Qatar next month.

Pentagon officials insisted the planned movement was only a one-week exercise designed to test a new deployment techniques using modular buildings to set up a headquarters quickly overseas. The newly constructed deployable buildings will be shipped by sea in containers later this month.

Pentagon sources said the military would like to move Central Command permanently to the region, which would place commanders closer to the action in Afghanistan and to action in Iraq in the event of war.

U.S. military equipment weighing thousands of tons is also being shipped from the United States and Europe to the Persian Gulf.

The United States has military bases in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

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