Washington has no plans to bolster its military forces in the Gulf, a senior US military officer stressed Wednesday, dismissing Iraq's new threats against Kuwait as mere "rhetoric."
"Our military forces remain at the normal level of preparedness and alertness," said Lieutenant General Paul Mikolashek, commanding general of the US Third Army and Army Forces Central Command.
Asked if Washington had any plans to bolster its forces in the region, he replied: "No. We have a continuous presence of forces here."
"There has been a lot of rhetoric. What is important to us, the military, is what actions are being done. Right now, we see a lot of rhetoric," the general said, explaining he was in Kuwait on a routine visit.
He said the current situation in the Gulf was "totally different" to the one that existed in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
"As you know, (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein was dealt a devastating defeat in (Operation) Desert Storm. He has lost military control over about 60 percent of his country.
"His armed forces have been degraded and sanctions have been in place for 10 years. He (still) has some very dangerous military capability, but the situation is not anywhere near the way it was in 1990," Mikolashek said.
Kuwait's state minister for foreign affairs Sulaiman Majed al-Shaheen said Tuesday that the latest Iraqi threats had escalated tension to pre-invasion levels.
During his visit, Mikolashek has met with senior Kuwaiti officials including Defense Minister Sheikh Salem al-Sabah and will see thousands of US troops stationed in Kuwait.
Some 4,500 US troops are in Kuwait, including 3,000 ground forces, a combat task force, an Apache helicopter unit, command and control systems, two Patriot batteries and stockpiles of propositioned military hardware.
An undisclosed number of US aircraft and 400 aircrew are also deployed at Ahmad al-Jaber air base, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Kuwait City, from where they patrol the southern "no-fly" zone over Iraq.
Kuwait has defense pacts with Washington, London and Paris, signed after the 1991 Gulf War, and the Kuwaiti military regularly holds exercises with their forces.
The Central Command, one of five US regional commands, covers an area stretching from Pakistan to Egypt – KUWAIT CITY (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )