Pentagon deploys aircraft, ships
Stealth fighters, bombers could be followed by ground troops
Sept. 19 — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday issued the first deployment order in a war against those responsible for last week’s terrorist attacks, readying as many as 150 aircraft, Pentagon officials told NBC News. The military would not discuss which forces were involved, but the officials said the order involved positioning troops for any contingency, including attacks on the Afghan refuge of Osama bin Laden.
THE AIRCRAFT include a mix of F-15 fighter jets, B-1 Stealth bombers, F-117 Stealth fighters and B-52 bombers, the officials told NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski.
The aircraft are expected to start leaving the United States from various bases beginning Thursday.
The combat aircraft will be preceded by teams of Air Force air controllers who will coordinate the refueling of the fighters and bombers as they deploy from the United States to the Gulf region, one official told The Associated Press.
The United States already has a sizeable and well-developed military presence in the Persian Gulf, with combat aircraft stationed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and elsewhere. It appeared likely that many of the extra combat aircraft to be deployed in the next several days would go to Kuwait and Bahrain, the official said.
Officials told NBC News that the first deployment order for aircraft will be followed by a second deployment order for ground troops within the next day or two.
NO DETAILED MOVEMENTS EXPECTED
The U.S. government has said that while general information about its military plans will become known, it will keep a tight lid on details of its strategy and timetable.
“I want to make it clear to the American people that this administration will not talk about any plans we may or may not have,” the president told reporters during a visit to the Pentagon Monday.
Americans awoke Wednesday to television images from Norfolk, Va., — home to the Atlantic Fleet — where family members bid goodbye to the 5,000-plus crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt. Its deployment to the Mediterranean had been scheduled before last Tuesday’s attacks, but its departure has taken on a much greater meaning in the days since.
While American officials remained scrupulously silent about their plans, a picture is developing of a steady military buildup that might begin with air strikes and small, elite teams of special forces, later backed up by a sustained, larger military campaign launched from Pakistan and other neighbors of Afghanistan.
These moves would be complemented by covert operations and actions by allied nations against alleged terrorist cells outside the immediate area of attack. The intelligence community appears to be gearing up for the kinds of “black ops” that most thought to be a thing of the past until the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
A CHANGE OF TUNE
The tight-lipped nature of the military preparations stand in stark contrast to other operations since the end of the Cold War. Beginning in 1990, when the first Bush administration trumpeted the buildup that preceded the Gulf War, the Pentagon has used carefully timed announcements regarding the deployment of major units to ratchet up the pressure on adversaries ahead of battle.
“That was an entirely different scenario,” said a U.S. military officer attached to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. “In the gulf, in Kosovo, we knew what we wanted to get. We wanted Saddam out of Kuwait, Milosevic out of Kosovo. We would have been happy to see them cut and run before the shooting started.”
This time around, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, “we don’t want to push them out. We want to knock them out.”
TELLING ONLY THE OBVIOUS
The Pentagon has revealed some details, however. Ships from the Pacific Fleet in Yoko***a, Japan, headed toward the Indian Ocean this week. Two other carriers - the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Enterprise - were in the Persian Gulf region, and military analysts expect others to follow. By a fortunate coincidence, some 20 British Royal Navy vessels are also in the Indian Ocean, including the aircraft carrier Illustrious. These ships were involved in a fleet exercise when the attacks occurred and have been ordered to stay on for the time being.
Reuters reported early Wednesday that fighter planes carried on the U.S. Navy’s USS Kitty Hawk based in Japan will conduct nighttime flight training this week, suggesting that the carrier would soon set sail.
“We received notice that Kitty Hawk would carry out nighttime flight training at Iwo Jima from (Sept.) 20 to 26,” an official at Japan’s Defense Facility Agency said. “Such training is usually carried out before a carrier sets sail.”
Royal Navy Sea Harriers are silhouetted against a full moon on HMS Illustrious earlier this year.
The call-up of military reservists — some 35,000 announced by President Bush on Monday — is really the only other concrete information the military sees fit to release at the moment. The U.S. press corps, facing the kind of war very few can remember, so far appear satisfied with that policy. Reports have mentioned alerts, but they really haven’t moved beyond the obvious. Typical was an anonymously sourced piece in the Washington Post pointing out that the 18th Airborne Corps, which includes the 82nd Airborne’s paratroopers, was on alert. MSNBC.com could not confirm that report. Whether that suggested any move overseas or merely contingency planning for “homeland defense,” however, was not discussed.
Overseas, the attitude is different, though the information available is no more telling. British newspapers tell of hobbyists known here as “plane spotters” encamped at the end of the huge runways at RAF Fairford, where B-52s operated during the Kosovo and gulf crises. “Increased activity” was reported at bases in Spain, Germany and Japan, and NATO countries made a series of small announcements regarding the reinforcement of their own overseas bases. Britain, for instance, said it was reinforcing its garrison in Kuwait and its air operations in Turkey and Oman with new security forces.
THE WORLD RESPONDS
The only thing approaching particulars about the actual plan came from the mouth of Rumsfeld himself, and then only a hint. Asked on CBS whether it would be enough if the Afghan Taliban regime turned over Osama bin Laden, Rumsfeld said: “If bin Laden were not there, the organization would continue doing what it’s been doing. So clearly the problem is much bigger than bin Laden.”
The Bush administration has made considerable progress this past week in rallying nations to its cause. With the shock of the attack still fresh, the diplomatic condolences were appreciated but unremarkable. But a week later, the brutality of the attacks appears to have caused at least some countries that have been reluctant to cooperate with the United States on much of anything to reconsider.
I sure hope they are leaving some of the military here at home to protect us!
I don't think any military action will start yet, I think they are trying to say "Hey you...Taliban govt....we're serious here, we want Bin Laden & we're not leaving until we have him." I am actually proud of how it's being handled at the moment. Instead of just reacting & taking revenge, our govt is thinking with a level head & trying their best not to involve anyone that isn't directly related to terrorism.
I'm just curious as to where they are getting all this money.....between what it costs to send our military over there, to bail the airlines out of their problems, to increase security not just in the airports, but practically everywhere, helping to keep the stock market afloat, the rescue workers that have been working 24/7, giving other countries millions in order to gain their support, etc. And now the Pres. is talking about a tax cut so that we will go out & spend money in order to keep us out of a recession.