WASHINGTON – Responding to a request from Greece, the United States has committed 400 American special forces soldiers to the job of helping protect the Olympic Games (search) next month, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Wednesday.
It is not yet decided whether the armed soldiers would be in Athens, on the nearby island of Crete or remain on alert in Europe, where they are based in Germany, the official said. The United States is in the process of discussing with the Greek government where the soldiers will be positioned, the official said.
The decision on where to send the soldiers is mostly up to the Greek government but will be made jointly with Gen. James Jones (search), the top NATO commander who also is commander of U.S. forces in Europe, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In any event, there will be up to 50 U.S. communications and other liaison personnel assigned to the Games, the official said.
Shadowing the Aug. 13-29 Games in the country in which they originated is fear of terror attacks. The United States plans to send State Department Diplomatic Security agents as well as FBI agents to Greece.
Israel, which lost 11 athletes to Palestinian terrorists in the 1972 Games at Munich (search), Germany, will send armed guards and is among a half-dozen countries contributing security expertise at Greece's request.
Still, the brunt of securing the Games rests on the shoulders of the Greeks, whose pride at being the hosts is tempered by private concerns. Greek officials have said confidently that they are on top of the security problem.
Greek police and U.S. counter-terrorism sources told The Associated Press earlier this month that armed U.S. agents would watch over athletes during a pre-Olympic training camp on the island of Crete.
Also, a Greek official said Wednesday in Athens that the Games' security budget, already the highest in Olympic history, was now about $1.5 billion.