It is the largest ground force identified so far among the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops included in deployment orders signed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld since Christmas Eve. One of the first ground units to get orders was the 3rd Infantry Division’s two brigades in Georgia, which began shipping out in early January.
At Fort Hood, Texas, spokesman Cecil Green said 12,500 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, plus nearly 4,000 from the division’s 3rd Brigade at Fort Carson, Colo., received orders to deploy to the Central Command area of responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf region.
The 4th Infantry Division will be the headquarters element of a Task Force Ironhorse, which also will have more than 20,000 soldiers from 10 other Army installations, for a total force of about 37,000 soldiers, Green said. He said he could not discuss other details, including the other units involved.
The only country in the Gulf where large numbers of American ground troops are assembling is Kuwait, which has at least 12,000 U.S. troops engaged in training for desert warfare. Turkey, to Iraq’s north, has been considering a U.S. request that it be permitted to base tens of thousands of ground forces there.
Separately, Rumsfeld dismissed suggestions that U.N. weapons inspectors would need months of additional time to determine whether Iraq is meeting its obligation to disarm.
“The U.N. resolution put the burden directly on Iraq to prove that it is disarming and that it does not have these weapons or, if it does, it is willing to give them up, “ Rumsfeld said in a speech to a Reserve Officers Association conference. “Thus far, Iraq has been unwilling to do so.”
While emphasizing that President Bush prefers a peaceful solution in Iraq, Rumsfeld said the way to avoid war is to be persuaded by Iraq that it has finally decided to cooperate with the U.N. weapons inspectors.
“It will not take months to determine whether or not they are cooperating,” he said.
Last Friday the U.N.’s top nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, said “a few more months” of inspections would be worthwhile if it meant avoiding war.
Rumsfeld also dismissed the idea that the United States might be forced to act alone against Iraq if the U.N. Security Council does not authorize an offensive.
“Let there be no doubt, there are large numbers of countries that are signed up to be helpful in the event that force is needed in dealing with Iraq,” he said. “This business about going it alone or unilateral is nonsense. There are a substantial number of countries that are ready to help. There are also a number of countries that are ready to help after it’s over in terms of a coalition to assist with the humanitarian aspects of the country.”