U.S. Special Forces in Iraq

Special Forces Command (Airborne)

Thu February 13, 2003 01:28 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Special Operations forces are operating inside Iraq, laying the foundation for an invasion if President Bush gives the order to go to war, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Two Special Operations Task Forces, with an undetermined number of personnel, have been in and out of various parts of Iraq for well over a month, the newspaper reported, citing two military officials with direct knowledge of their activities.

The officials told the newspaper that the special operations units were laying the groundwork for conventional forces to quickly seize large portions of Iraqi territory in a possible war.

According to the report, some of the special forces were establishing communications with opposition groups and setting up airstrips. Officials told the paper that others were focused on preventing Iraq from launching missiles or drone aircraft against Israel. Those troops are believed to move in and out of Iraq from neighboring countries, the newspaper said.

A spokesman for the U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and Gulf, was not immediately available for comment.

The Central Command chief, Gen. Tommy Franks, was scheduled to meet President Bush at the White House on Thursday for a review of his war plans, The Post reported.

The newspaper said Franks was expected to depart soon afterward to Qatar, where the U.S. military's Central Command has established its regional headquarters for any attack on Iraq.


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