Iraq: February 3, 2003


The Royal Navy Task Force, including the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, bound for the Persian Gulf entered Egypt's Suez Canal on February 1. The British ships were being accompanied by the American nuclear submarine USS Montpelier, port officials said on condition of anonymity. The vessels entered the canal under tight security and were expected to cross into the Red Sea later on the 1st. Three destroyers and seven supply ships are also part of the flotilla, which is carrying 3,000 Royal Marines and 5,000 sailors. 

In Wuerzburg and Heidelburg, Germany, about 1,800 members of the US Army's 1st Infantry Division began their move on January 31. The troop movement was only a fraction of the division's roughly 13,000 troops based around Wuerzburg, of which 4,000 are currently on duty in Kosovo. Apparently, these were headquarters and support units - but moving them first is typically a prelude to sending the rest of the division. The troops' destination was classified and officials would only say that it was in support of US Central Command operations.

Speculation on their destination is running rampant. Abdul Vahid Kheder, an official of the Kurdish Democratic Party in the region, that some 2,000 US military and intelligence specialists are scheduled to enter northern Iraq through the Turkish border to staff and protect the airfields in Dohuk, Irbil and Sulaiymania provinces. 

That same day, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers hinted that a small contingent of US troops are already in Kurd-controlled northern Iraq, just across the Turkish border. While it has been widely reported that US special operations teams and CIA agents were already in northern Iraq laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, this is the first time the Pentagon has confirmed (even indirectly) the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. - Adam Geibel




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