By Zeb Eckert
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Posted 6:50 p.m. Sept. 19
The Pentagon secured plans Wednesday to shift an arsenal of combat and supply aircraft to the Persian Gulf, the first clear sign that an organized military response to last week’s terrorist attacks could be soon underway.
While those aircraft remain in the United States, the decision by Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is considered an integral first move in preparing for the arrival of combat forces.
The orders add to an already sizable U.S. military presence in the region. Air controllers are expected to depart first and lay the groundwork for refueling operations along the way, according to the Associated Press. The Air Force would likely send F-16, F-15, and B-1 bombers to the region.
The deployment of aircraft comes on the heels of President Bush’s Sept. 14 mobilization of close to 35,000 National Guard and reserve troops. The President said those troops would be used for “essential roles” including air defense and intelligence.
Rumsfeld Tuesday defended the President’s decision and said a clear military response is in the works.
“You simply cannot batten down the hatches and try to cope with every
conceivable thing any terrorist could imagine to do,” Rumsfeld told reporters. “I mean, they’re already done some unimaginable things. The only answer is to take the effort to them where they are.”
Marines on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt left Norfolk, Va.,
Wednesday for a schedule deployment to the Mediterranean Sea.
The carrier was set to replace the USS Enterprise already in the Persian
Gulf. The Pentagon reportedly changed its orders and asked the Enterprise to stay in the region. With the arrival of the Roosevelt, three battle-ready ships would be in place within the next three weeks.
President Bush has launched an aggressive campaign to win the support of foreign leaders in a broad-scale effort against terrorism, the plans of
which still remain unclear.
On Tuesday, the President met with French President Jacques Chirac and
Wednesday met with the president of Indonesia.He is expected to meet
Thursday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and convene meetings with a number of other foreign ministers later this week.
In the latest showing of international support, Japanese Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi promised Wednesday the full support of Japanese troops in a war against terrorism.
“Japan strongly supports the United States and is resolved to spare no
effort in providing necessary assistance and cooperation,” Koizumi said last week. “We must stand firmly together with the concerned nations of the world to ensure that such acts are never repeated.”
The U.S. government maintained Wednesday the war on terrorism would not be hastily-planned, but given careful consideration and likely involve the resources of dozens of other countries.