Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senators Scrutinize Military Deployment Delegation Member `Aghast' about U.S. Cost, Commitment in Persian Gulf

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senators Scrutinize Military Deployment Delegation Member `Aghast' about U.S. Cost, Commitment in Persian Gulf

Article excerpt

For the first time since the 1991 coalition victory over Iraq, senior lawmakers are questioning why the United States still has more than a dozen ships and 18,000 military personnel in the Persian Gulf.

Republicans have long criticized President Bill Clinton for putting U.S. forces into too many low-priority trouble spots. But now, according to an unreleased report by GOP members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, they are scrutinizing the depth and cost of the military commitment to the world's richest oil-producing region.

This time the criticism is directed not at Clinton but at military commanders, for maintaining warlike operations at a time of peace. "I was just aghast when I saw what was going on, in terms of planning, by the expansion of Aviano (Air Base in Italy), expansion of the Kuwait deployment, the expansion of the deployment in Saudi Arabia, without any consultation with us," said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The report is the product of a tour Stevens and his colleagues took in January of U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf and in Bosnia. According to the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press: "The (Senate) delegation believes serious policy issues regarding a continued long-term presence in this region must be addressed." In Saudi Arabia, 222 aircraft are flying about 200 missions a day to enforce a no-fly zone over southern Iraq and to watch for threatening Iraqi troop movements. In Kuwait, the Army is operating almost constant training exercises. And over Bosnia, warplanes out of Aviano fly missions daily even though there is no fighting and no hostile aircraft in the area. Sens. Stevens, Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Robert Bennett, R-Utah., said that in decades past such major commitments would have involved intense congressional debate. Army Gen. Binford Peay III, head of the Central Command that is responsible for the Persian Gulf, defended the current deployment, which includes 18,550 Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine personnel on 14 ships or at bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. …

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