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Pentagon officials: Special Forces in northern Iraq

From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pentagon officials said Wednesday that U.S. military personnel are working with CIA teams conducting "liaison" missions with Kurds in northern Iraq.

They said those people are who Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers was referring to when he used the term "not significant forces" in a Pentagon briefing earlier Wednesday.

Asked if there are U.S. military forces on the ground in the Kurdish part of northern Iraq now, Myers replied, "I don't think we want to get into where our forces are right now, but there are not significant military forces in northern Iraq right now."

A small number of U.S. Special Forces "liaison officers" joined CIA teams that have been meeting with Kurdish leaders in the autonomous Kurdish zone, according to Pentagon officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The zone has been outside the control of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein since 1991.

The CIA teams are advising Kurdish leaders on how to protect themselves in the event of war and determining what help the Kurds may be able to provide, the officials said.

Pentagon officials discounted a report from an Iraqi opposition source that U.S. military transport planes landed Tuesday at the Harir airfield near the town of Shaqlawa in the western part of the zone, where workers unloaded containers and started construction.

"That is a false report," a Pentagon official told CNN.

Myers said he knew nothing about the reported landing of U.S. aircraft.

"I'm not talking about that. I'm not aware of that, actually," he said.


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