WASHINGTON -- U.S. Marines are preparing to land on Kuwaiti beaches in one of three simultaneous military exercises designed to demonstrate the American commitment to the defense of that nation, the Pentagon said Monday.
A spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joe Gradisher, said the amphibious landing will begin on Tuesday morning Kuwaiti time. The landing, code- named Eager Mace 92-3, will be coordinated with another drill code-named Native Fury 92. That second exercise will test the offloading of heavy equipment such as tanks stored on ships in the Indian Ocean. The ships are intended to speed up any U.S. military deployment to the Middle East.
In a hasty response to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's grudging cooperation with U.N. inspectors seeking to enforce a ban on nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, U.S. Army troops will be going to Kuwait over the next three weeks in a third exercise code-named Intrinsic Action. The reinforcement comes almost exactly two years after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Saturday that the Army maneuver had been planned for next month but was moved up in response to Iraq's tardy admission last week of a U.N. inspection team to its agriculture ministry, where evidence of Iraq's nuclear weapons program was believed to have been stored. The U.N. inspectors had kept the building under surveillance for three weeks until they were driven off by mobs of demonstrators. Iraq had agreed to dismantle its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs as a condition of the cease-fire that ended last year's Persian Gulf War.
'If there had never been a dust-up at the agricultural ministry,' Cheney said in a CNN television interview, 'if there was no controversy at all in Iraq today, we would have done this exercise in September.'
'What we have done since the end of the gulf war,' Cheney said, 'without building a major U.S. base in the Persian Gulf region,...is to conclude a series of agreements that allow us to demonstrate our capacity to return rapidly to the region in the event of a crisis.'
'This is one more piece of that program that allow us to demonstrate to would-be adversaries that the United States is ready to go on short notice and to reassure our friends, such as the Saudis, such as the Kuwaitis and the other gulf states that we are prepared to come to their assistance if it's needed,' the defence secretary said.
Exercise Intrinsic Action will test that rapid reinforcement concept. Some 2,400 troops from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and the 5th Special Forces Group from Fort Campbell, Ky., will be involved. The tankers and infantry will deploy without their own equipment and will instead draw on tanks and infantry fighting vehicles stored in Kuwait.
Some 1,900 U.S. troops will be involved in the Eager Mace 92-3 amphibious exercise. Marine participants will include a battalion landing team and a helicopter squadron. The force's headquarters will be aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa.
Some 900 other marines and sailors will take part in the Native Fury 92 equipment landing. This includes a Marine support group, a Navy beach group and portions of a Marine aircraft wing.
Kuwaiti forces will participate in all three exercises under terms of a defense cooperation agreement that the two countries signed late last year.
Pentagon spokesmen said no Iraqi military reaction to the exercises had been detected. Iraq recently reiterated its claim to Kuwait.