- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) — A small number of U.S. troops have been inserted in northern Iraq, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed Wednesday.

Myers declined to specify the number of soldiers but called it an "insignificant" number.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointed out that the word "insignificant" referred to the size of the total force in northern Iraq, not to the individuals involved.

The troops, most likely special operations forces, are presumably embedded with Kurdish military units who would be relied on to help fight the northern front near Turkey if the United States invades Iraq.

Military and intelligence officials have acknowledged privately that CIA officers are working with Kurdish factions, but Myers statement was the first time the Pentagon publicly confirmed their presence.

Small numbers of Special Forces soldiers were instrumental in organizing, equipping and training Afghan rebel forces, and only a few hundred were necessary to guide the Northern Alliance to victory over the Taliban.

Also Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that it is mobilizing an additional 15,718 reservists, bringing the total number of citizen soldiers currently activated to 94,624, one of the highest levels since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.

The Coast Guard announced Wednesday it is dispatching eight cutters with roughly 600 people to the Persian Gulf region. Myers said their mission will be port protection for the growing armada of U.S. warships in the area. There are at least four aircraft carrier battle groups in the region, with roughly 15 ships per group.

The Coast Guard will help protect large ships while in port from being attacked the way the USS Cole was on October 2000. That suicide bombing in port in Yemen claimed 17 sailors' lives.

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