26 November 2003
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States said on Tuesday it will begin "intensive discussions" with allies next month on a planned post-Cold War global realignment of U.S. military forces, but stressed no final decisions had been made.
"High-level U.S. teams will begin consultations in foreign capitals in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere" immediately after NATO ministerial meetings in Brussels in early December, President George W. Bush said in a statement issued by the White House.
"We will ensure that we place the right capabilities in the most appropriate locations to best address the new security environment," said Bush, extending overseas a Pentagon debate on changing the military's Cold War "footprint" in cooperation with allies.
Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stressed that the U.S. Congress would also be closely consulted on any changes to make the U.S. military more mobile and lethal after the Sept. 11 attacks on America.
The United States will "engage our friends and allies so that we can figure out between us what makes the most sense," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing.
A final decision on force position was months away, he said. "The goal is to end up with capabilities that are as good or better and addressed ... to 21st century capabilities and threats," he said. "These things will be happening incrementally over a period of probably four, five, six years."
The 1991 Gulf War and more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have taught the United States and its allies that military mobility -- including temporary basing over-flight rights -- and technology rather than entrenched heavy Cold War forces are keys to preventing or winning future conflicts.
Washington has already withdrawn its forces from Saudi Arabia and signaled it intends to reduce a major presence in Germany, moving troops into former Soviet bloc states in Eastern Europe such as Poland to improve its ability to operate in the Middle East.
But no final decisions have been made, including on how to realign the 100,000 U.S. troops in the western Pacific, South Korea and Japan, officials said.
The Pentagon is planning to move its 37,000 troops in South Korea away from the demilitarized zone with North Korea. But it has not even begun formal discussions with Seoul on the likelihood that some of those troops will be withdrawn from the country.
"No, No, No," the secretary said when pressed on whether the United States had already made decisions on such issues as whether the Navy might base an additional aircraft carrier in the western Pacific.