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Jamie McIntyre: U.S. stresses importance of Oman's bases

Jamie Mcintyre
Jamie Mcintyre  

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to discuss the possible staging of U.S. aircraft at Oman's bases. After meeting Oman's leaders today, Rumsfeld will then head off to Egypt. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre is traveling with the secretary and spoke with CNN Thursday morning.

JAMIE MCINTYRE: Good morning from Masqat, Oman, where U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has helicoptered off to a secret meeting with the Sultan of Oman. And the discussion here is about how important the United States feels that the relationship with Oman is as they seek to make sure that all of the consultations have taken place that are part of what needs to happen before the U.S. can take any military action.

The U.S. officials here describe the cooperation between the United States and Oman as excellent. And in fact, Oman has been a very close and supportive ally of the United States. In fact, it has allowed the United States to base planes here in the past.

And Pentagon sources say that B-1 Bombers have again moved to bases in Oman. Oman could also serve as the jumping off point for special forces if the U.S. needed to move them into a position where they were closer to Afghanistan.

This is just the first stop in this trip. From here Rumsfeld goes to Egypt and then to Uzbekistan where the United States has plans to base troops as well just across the northern border of Afghanistan in Uzbekistan. But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said at this point, it's still an open question whether the U.S. will actually base troops there. Presumably he may have a more definitive answer after he comes back from Uzbekistan tomorrow.

CNN: As all these diplomatic maneuvers are taking place, as all the military hardware gets in place, does the United States have enough military resources in the region to strike at any day?

MCINTYRE: Well the answer to that is yes. In fact, the U.S. had military assets in place, they could have struck in some form immediately after the September 11 attacks. The question is will the U.S. be able to strike in the time and manner that it wants. And part of that is to minimize the imposition of U.S. forces in places where it could cause political problems for some of the countries that are helping the United States.

For instance, in Pakistan, has not yet agreed to allow U.S. troops to launch offensive strikes from Pakistan, but has granted other rights such as overflight, logistical support, intelligence sharing. So for instance, the movement of the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk to serve as a floating base is evidence that the United States wants to have the maximum number of options with the minimum footprint on the ground in the region.

So in that sense, they're still moving things around, still getting things in place, but there is an awful lot of firepower in this region. And if the United States wanted to strike today, it certainly has the wherewithal to do that.


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