WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has called up tens of thousands more National Guard and Reserve members to active duty, pushing the total to 150,252, as the military moves ahead with preparations for a possible war in Iraq.
Of the 38,649 reservists mobilized in the last week, an undisclosed number will head for the Persian Gulf region. Already there are 130,000 U.S. land, sea and air forces awaiting President Bush's decision on whether to use force to disarm Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
"Some ... will deploy to the Middle East, others will serve here in the homeland," said Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking, a Defense Department spokesman. "All of them are essential to winning the war on terrorism."
With the likelihood of war seemingly on the rise, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met Wednesday at the Pentagon with Gen. Tommy Franks, who would run a war against Iraq. Rumsfeld also met separately with Geoff Hoon, the British defense minister, to discuss Iraq.
At a joint news conference with Hoon, Rumsfeld was dismissive of suggestions by France and Germany of expanding the U.N. inspection team in Iraq and possibly reinforcing it with U.N. troops on the ground.
"I can't quite imagine why, if they do decide to make such a proposal, what their purpose might be," he told reporters.
Hoon agreed. "It's about cooperation. It's not about number of inspectors," he said.
Also Wednesday, U.S. airplanes dropped another half million leaflets over southern Iraq in its escalating psychological warfare ahead of the threatened war to overthrow the Iraqi president.
Leaflets with five messages were dropped over a number of locations outside the capital, Baghdad, and near the southern city of Basra, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
One version told of radio frequencies where Iraqis can tune in to anti-Saddam U.S. broadcasts. A second showed allied warplanes bombing Iraqi tanks outside a mosque, warning civilians to "avoid areas occupied by military personnel." Others warned the Iraqi military against shooting at U.S. and British planes that have been enforcing the decade-old "no-fly zone."
More than 2 million leaflets have been dropped this month, and 4 million were dropped in January.
By week's end, the size of the U.S. force in the Persian Gulf region is expected to top 150,000, defense officials said. That does not include the 4th Infantry Division, a 17,000-troop force based at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Carson, Colo., that is earmarked to go to Turkey if the country's parliament approves a proposal for U.S. use of Turkish bases.
The Army's 1st Infantry Division also is sending part of its forces to Turkey from bases in Germany.
The bulk of the U.S. ground invasion force is assembling in Kuwait, totaling more than 50,000 so far.
Also headed to the Gulf but not yet arrived are two more aircraft carriers -- the USS Kitty Hawk from Yokosuka, Japan, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt from Norfolk, Va. The carrier the USS Carl Vinson is headed to the western Pacific to fill in for the Kitty Hawk.
In announcing additional call-ups of National Guard and Reserve members, the Pentagon said the Army has mobilized the largest number, by far: 113,751, followed by the Air Force with 15,704. The Marine Corps has called up 12,539, the Navy 6,276 and the Coast Guard 1,982.