Eric Schmitt and James Dao report in The New York Times of February 4 that the top Marine general for Central Asia and the Persian Gulf is moving his headquarters to Bahrain from Hawaii. His counterparts in Army, Navy and Air Force have already moved to the region.More than 1,000 war planners, logistics experts and support specialists are now at sophisticated command posts in the region, ready to act. This is the first time so many senior commanders have been placed in war-ready positions since the gulf war in 1991. General Tommy Franks, of the military Central Command, remains at his headquarters in Tampa, Florida, but is traveling frequently to the region. These moves suggest that new U.S. attacks against terrorism may be imminent.
The decision to move General Hailston and nearly half his staff of 500 marines to Bahrain is the first time that the Marine Corps commander for the region has had his headquarters there, except for training exercises. ?They wanted to make sure he was closer to the hotbeds of unrest,? asenior Marine Corps officer says.
?These are the guys who are actively fighting the war every day,? says Rear Admiral Craig R. Quigley, senior spokesman for the Central Command. ?When you have that task of running the war from the tactical level, it?s better when you?re physically closer to the forces you control.?When fighting a war, General Franks?s top commanders always follow their troops to the front.?In the cultures of many of the nations in our region, there is no substitute for face-to-face conversation," says Quigley.
However, Pentagon officials say that recent events such as a three-week exercise involving more than 2,000 marines off the coast of Kenya that started Monday do not mean we will soon attack the neighboring country of Somalia.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has accused Iran of allowing al Qaeda members to seek refuge there. ?The Iranians have not done what the Pakistan government has done: put troops along the border and prevent terrorists from escaping out of Afghanistan into their country,? he says.
Expanded American military presence in the region could send a message to Iran and Iraq that they cannot provide chemical or biological weapons to terrorist groups without running the risk of a U.S. military response.
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