The Greek government has asked NATO to consider dispatching a contingent of troops, possibly including U.S. forces, to help provide security at next month's Olympic Games, top Pentagon officials said yesterday.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said NATO is studying the request at its headquarters in Brussels. They did not provide details of the request and declined to discuss any intelligence indicating that terrorists might be planning to target the Olympics in Athens.
The United States has agreed to contribute 400 Special Forces soldiers to help protect the Games, the Associated Press quoted a U.S. counterterrorism official as saying. But it has not yet been decided whether the troops would be in Athens, on the nearby island of Crete or remain on alert in Europe, the news agency reported.
In any case, Rumsfeld and Myers made it clear that any U.S. soldiers helping to provide security for the Games would do so under the auspices of NATO, a 26-nation alliance that includes Greece.
"Greece has been working closely with NATO," Rumsfeld said at a news conference at the Pentagon. "And NATO has been, to the extent it's able, responding to the government of Greece's requests and thoughts and suggestions."
Myers, standing alongside Rumsfeld, said: "The Greek government has made a request of NATO. NATO is evaluating that request. . . . And once that decision's made, then we'll look at the kind of capabilities that might be required to help."
Asked if that help would involve U.S. troops, Myers said, "It's all possible. Sure."
Rumsfeld interjected that "it wouldn't involve U.S. troops, per se. It would be only a NATO mission."
The dispatch of foreign troops or armed guards to Greece for the Olympics is a sensitive issue because the Greek constitution generally prohibits foreigners from bearing arms on Greek soil. There are exceptions, however, for armed guards of foreign leaders and for NATO troops, officials said.