More than 20,000 American troops have been moved into Qatar and Kuwait, suggesting that the U.S. is about to move the war on terrorism into Iraq. The U.S. moved the headquarters of its 3rd Army to Qatar two weeks ago and defense analysts have reported large numbers of troops being moved into the region since then. The Pentagon says it?s only rotating troops but defense analysts say that about 24,000 troops have been moved in and only around 4,000 have moved out.

The 3rd Army is the ground component of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees America?s military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. They were in charge of coalition forces during the Gulf war.

The Czech Republic inadvertently confirmed the troop build-up in the region by offering to send the 400 troops it has committed to the war on terrorism to Kuwait. Miroslav Titz, the deputy chairman of the Czech parliament?s defense and security committee, said they could deploy an anti-chemical warfare unit and a field hospital in the area. ?A joint contingent is being considered,? he said. ?It might be deployed at a U.S. base in Kuwait where it would have logistics support.? Czech chemical defense units and a field hospital were based in Kuwait during the Gulf war.

The troops may have been sent to the area in order to intimidate Saddam Hussein. American officials admit that a State Department team, led by Ryan Crocker, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, went into northern Iraq recently to meet with Kurdish leaders.

The visit was intended to make Saddam nervous and to encourage the Kurdish leaders to unite to oppose Saddam, in the same way we supported the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. President Bush and his top advisers are said to have decided against launching a direct attack on Iraq and instead want to encourage opposition forces to overthrow Saddam from within.

Colin Powell is working on a long-term plan aimed at forcing Iraq to readmit United Nations weapons inspectors. If Iraq refuses, as it has already said it will, the U.S. does not rule out using military force.

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