- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

KUWAIT CITY A large area of northern Kuwait is to become a "military zone" in response to security fears expressed by U.S. forces, Kuwait's Defense Ministry announced yesterday.
"For safety reasons we have decided to clear the area of all nonmilitary personnel. Evacuation measures are being put in place today," Brig. Gen. Ahmed Rahmani said.
Although the security of U.S. forces in the region is cited as a prime reason for creating the zone, it will provide troops with a closed arena, away from public scrutiny, to begin exercises prior to an invasion of Iraq.
Joint U.S. and Kuwaiti exercises are planned for this winter, and next month a British armored division of as many as 20,000 men is expected to arrive.
"No one will know just how many troops will be operating there, but the buildup to war can now really begin," a Kuwaiti security official said. The area, which runs parallel to the demilitarized zone that separates Kuwait and Iraq, covers more than 5,000 square miles and stretches from the Persian Gulf to the border with Saudi Arabia.
It is home to hundreds of farmers and Bedouin tribesmen, and is a popular tourist destination in the winter.
"The Americans have a problem with security, and so we have to get people out, for both the public's and the American's safety," a Kuwaiti Defense Ministry spokesman said. "We understand the distress this will cause, but we don't want anybody getting shot by mistake, especially during the winter season, when many Kuwaitis visit the area."
The announcement reflects the dangerous situation that has arisen for the U.S. forces based in Kuwait as they wait for a decision on a military strike against Iraq. Earlier this month, two suspected al Qaeda gunmen carried out a suicide attack against U.S. troops on Failaka Island, killing one Marine and wounding another.
Two further shooting incidents aimed at U.S. soldiers took place within the next two weeks without injury.
Camp Doha, the American base in Kuwait where more than 10,000 troops are housed, has received numerous suicide threats. The presence of so many U.S. troops is proving deeply unpopular with Kuwaitis.
"This is an uncertain and worrying time for U.S. forces," a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy said.

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