WASHINGTON (AP) – Continuing his consultations with allies, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld began a five-day trip to the Persian Gulf and Horn of Africa yesterday to visit American and allied troops.
Citing the potential for terrorist threats, Pentagon officials insisted that reporters traveling with Rumsfeld not reveal his destinations in advance. Officials would say only that he was visiting Central Command’s area of responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia.
Rumsfeld’s trip is the latest in a series of consultations by senior Bush administration officials with key allies in the Iraq crisis and the war on terror. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was due to visit Moscow this week to consult on Iraq and the terror war.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz visited Turkey last week and secured a preliminary agreement that would permit U.S. forces to use Turkish bases in the event of war in Iraq.
The U.S. general who would run a war against Iraq, Tommy Franks, arrived in Qatar on Friday to prepare for a computerized war game starting yesterday.
Franks, the commander of Central Command, was in the Gulf late last month to consult with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
U.S. troops under Franks’ command are stationed in many countries in the Gulf and Central Asia. There are about 12,000 troops in Kuwait, mostly Army soldiers, and more than 5,000 in Saudi Arabia, mostly Air Force. The Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters is in Bahrain, and more than 4,300 troops are in Qatar.
There are more than 1,000 U.S. troops in Djibouti, a small nation on the Horn of Africa.
Coinciding with Rumsfeld’s trip was the arrival off the Red Sea coast of Djibouti of the USS Mount Whitney.