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Sources: Special Forces train to seize Iraqi weapons sites

From Barbara Starr
CNN

Iraq
U.S. Special Forces train in Jordan for possible action against Iraq.

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SPECIAL REPORT
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models
AMONG U.S. GROUND FORCES IN GULF REGION
Jordan:  Some 1,500 Special Forces troops in training

Djibouti: 800 troops

Kuwait: 2,000 Marines there since end of Gulf War; 2,000 have recently participated in the Operation Eager Mace exercises

Qatar: Expanding presence includes up to 1,000 Central Command staffers being deployed in November

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Special Forces are already training in the Middle East for possible covert missions to undercut Iraq's potential to use weapons of mass destruction in the opening hours of any military action, CNN has learned.

About 1,500 Special Forces troops are training in Jordan. Should the United States take military action against Iraq, sources said Friday, commandos would be inserted behind enemy lines to attempt to seize Iraq's suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons sites.

A senior official told CNN that U.S. forces would "take every kind of potential action against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

One of the most crucial missions for the U.S. forces would be to destroy the dozens of SCUD missiles that the United States believes Iraq may be hiding. During the Gulf War a decade ago, Iraq launched more than three dozen SCUDs, aiming at targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

CNN has learned that if Special Forces troops quickly destroy the weapons sites and SCUD launchers, they will then turn their attention to covert action to disrupt activity inside Iraq, including cutting off power, blocking roads and sabotaging equipment.

The United States has renewed promises to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Persian Gulf allies that the United States will seek to protect them from Iraqi missile attacks, using satellite surveillance and Patriot missile batteries that will be sent into the region.

Special Operations forces have also been given greater authority to go after, capture and kill top al Qaeda leaders.

While participating in Operation Eager Mace in Jordan earlier this month, U.S. Marines participating in Operation Eager Mace came under fire from Kuwaiti civilians. One Marine was killed and one was injured. Kuwaiti Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khalid Al-Sabah has said the leader of the suspected terrorist cell involved had connections with al Qaeda. (Full story)

The U.S. military is expanding its operations to Al U-Dayd air base in Qatar and installing a backup air operations center.

Pentagon officials insisted the planned movement was only a one-week exercise designed to test a new deployment techniques using modular buildings to set up a headquarters quickly overseas. The newly constructed deployable buildings will be shipped by sea in containers later this month. (Full story)

Pentagon sources said the military would like to move Central Command permanently to the region, which would place commanders closer to the action in Afghanistan and to action in Iraq in the event of war.

U.S. military equipment weighing thousands of tons is also being shipped from the United States and Europe to the Persian Gulf.

The United States has military bases in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.



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