AL-JABER AIR BASE, Kuwait (AP) -- The Pentagon is sending up to 3,000 troops to Kuwait -- tripling U.S. ground forces in the country -- "to discourage any creative thinking" by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
At the same time, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ruled out any massive military invasion of Iraq. "The administration does not agree with those who suggest we should deploy hundreds of thousands of American troops to engage militarily in a ground war in Iraq," Albright said in a speech in Washington.
The latest deployment of U.S. ground forces was disclosed by a senior military official traveling in the region with Defense Secretary William Cohen. He said up to 3,000 troops from Fort Hood, Texas, will be sent to Kuwait over the next 10 days or so to help defend Iraq's southern neighbor.
Although Cohen had not formally signed the deployment order, a Pentagon official said Monday "the forces have been requested and that request is being considered and processed.''
They will join 1,500 Army troops who have been using M1-A1 tanks, armored Bradley troop carriers and other vehicles during a scheduled exercise in the desert emirate. The United States deployed 541,000 ground troops during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Deployment of additional soldiers to Kuwait had been rumored for weeks at the Pentagon.
Another senior official traveling with Cohen stressed that the ground troops would not take part in any ground attack against Iraq.
Should President Clinton decide to take military action against Iraq, Pentagon officials have said it would be a substantial airstrike involving combat aircraft based in Kuwait, Bahrain and the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. There also would be strikes from cruise missiles launched from the Navy ships in the Persian Gulf region.
For its part, Iraq appeared to be preparing for a U.S. attack. Troops of Saddam's elite Republican Guard, for instance, were being scattered throughout the country in an effort to ensure that his government remains in power, according to Iraqi travelers arriving in Jordan.
Iraq also dispatched diplomats to several Arab countries that joined the U.S.-led coalition in the Gulf War, seeking their support.