Kuwait Facilities Could Handle Big Troop Pullout, General Says

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 2, 2007

KUWAIT CITY, Aug. 1 -- U.S. commanders in Kuwait said Wednesday that they have enormous capability to handle the tens of thousands of troops and their equipment that would stream out of Iraq during a U.S. withdrawal.

On a Middle East tour to discuss security cooperation with Iraq's neighbors, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates flew over Camp Arifjan, about 40 miles south of Kuwait City, and facilities nearby at Shuaiba, the military's only port conduit for heavy equipment such as tanks and armored vehicles.

Defense officials said that Gates was here to meet Kuwaiti leaders and that his first visit to the country was not specifically geared toward examining withdrawal options.

Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, commanding general of the 3rd Army, said the Kuwait facilities have handled as many as 240,000 troops moving into and out of Iraq in as little as a three-month period during the war's major rotations. About 160,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Iraq.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that under normal circumstances the United States is capable of moving about one brigade -- or more than 3,500 troops and their equipment -- in or out of the country in any given month.

Whitcomb said any withdrawal from Iraq would likely not be "the California gold rush," as plans probably would call for a steady stream of departing troops and equipment rather than a bolt for the border.

The same U.S. facilities in Kuwait handled the departure of more than half a million U.S. troops from the region after the Persian Gulf War in 1991, a process that took more than a year.

It would be a "deliberate and methodical coming out," Whitcomb said. "We can't just come down helter-skelter."

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