Washington (Reuters) – The Defense Department has ordered a further 28,000 troops to the Gulf region as the United States builds a military force of more than 200,000 for a possible war with Iraq, military officials said on Tuesday.
The 5,200 soldiers of the highly mobile U.S. Army 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Carson in Colorado, are included in the deployment order signed in recent days, the officials said.
The United States now has 182,000 troops in and near the Gulf in case President Bush orders an invasion of Iraq, said a defense official speaking on condition of anonymity. Tens of thousands of more troops are heading toward the region in the coming weeks.
Bush has said the United States will lead a coalition of nations to disarm Iraq by force if the Iraqis fail to comply with U.N. demands that they give up any banned weapons of mass destruction. Iraq denies possessing such weapons.
The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed “Brave Rifles,” played an important role in the 1991 Gulf War. The regiment drove more than 185 miles into southern Iraq in 100 hours in the crushing “left hook” movement during the brief ground phase of the Gulf War.
“The regiment moved over 300 kilometers and literally destroyed three Iraqi Republican Guards divisions,” said Capt. Bren Workman, a spokesman at Fort Carson.
The regiment has more than 300 armored vehicles, including M1A1 Abrams tanks and M3A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and more than 80 aircraft, including AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, officials said.
The regiment is a highly mobile force that can conduct offensive and defensive operations, reconnaissance and security functions, officials said. It also can be quickly deployed in emergency situations, they said.
Fort Carson officials said the regiment would be deployed in the coming weeks, but declined to be more specific.
U.S. officials said nearly 200,000 American troops could be in place by early March. In addition to ground troops, the United States has massed air power and warships in the region, deploying five aircraft carrier battle groups. The carriers are accompanied by dozens of other warships carrying long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Thousands of U.S. troops last week began flying to the Gulf region on commercial airliners mobilized by the Pentagon to meet growing airlift needs for a possible war.
Britain also is committing more than 40,000 troops, as well as warships and warplanes.