The Defense Department has decided to call up major combat units from the reserves, a move that will in the coming months add thousands of soldiers to the U.S. forces already in the Persian Gulf, the New York Times reported Monday.
Citing administration sources, the paper said the decision came after Congress doubled the limit on active-duty service for combat reservists to 360 days.The reservists are expected to be among the up to 100,000 additional troops the Pentagon has said it will send to the gulf in coming weeks, the Times said. Defense Department officials said the reservists could be on the front lines early next year, though many details remain to be worked out.
More than 34,000 reservists have already been mobilized for military support roles in the United States and the gulf region, according to the Times.
In the Saudi resort town of Taif, Secretary of State James Baker met with Kuwait's exiled emir.
After Monday's meeting, Baker said, "This crisis is entering a new phase, and while we are still seeking a peaceful political and diplomatic solution, we have to put ourselves in a position where we would be able to exercise any options that might be available."
Baker said he had not discussed a military timetable with the emir. He said "the entire international community" was seeking a peaceful solution to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, adding, "I don't think that we can, nor should we, rule out a resort to force, if that should be necessary. Our preference would be a political and peaceful solution."
Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah said he would like to see his country liberated "today and before tomorrow. What I would like to see is the liberation of Kuwait as soon as possible," he told reporters.
Baker was received warmly by U.S. forces in the Saudi desert on Sunday, but some of the soldiers expressed frustration.
"I'm ready to go home," one female sergeant told reporters. "I'm tired of eating this dirt. I'm tired of drinking hot water."
The secretary of state told the troops he understood that "this is a long way from home," but added, "I think that Americans are home wherever our principles are. And that's really what this crisis is all about."
While Syrian tanks rumbled ashore in Saudi Arabia and the United States began consulting allies on a possible timetable for war, Iraq defiantly told the world to forget there was ever a place called Kuwait.
"I want to tell you, as a member of the leadership, we will never go out of Kuwait, ever," said Information Minister Latif Nassif al-Jassem.
"The whole world should forget something called the emirate of Kuwait. They should speak about `a province called Kuwait' and act accordingly," he told visiting journalists Sunday.
What if this meant war, he was asked. "No problem," Jassem replied.
Iraq's Arab opponents were also in uncompromising mood. A senior American official said Bahrain does not oppose force to push Iraq out of Kuwait.
According to the official, Bahrain wants a special Security Council vote before the 310,000 multinational force goes to war. But Bahrain's information minister, Tariq Almoayyed, said the 210,000 U.S. troops would probably be given a free hand.
Syria, America's least likely ally in the crisis, showed it was still committed to the anti-Iraqi cause despite recent fierce criticism of U.S. aid to Israel.
It said an armored division was on the way to Saudi Arabia and officials said up to 20,000 men were earmarked for the Persian Gulf.
More than 100 Syrian tanks - each bearing a picture of President Hafez al-Assad - and 2,500 troops arrived Sunday aboard a Saudi transport ship at the Red Sea port of Yanbu.
Elsewhere, a military strategy expert told the International Herald Tribune Monday that gulf forces were prepared to dig in for the long haul.
Francois Heisbourg, director of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, said the U.S.-led forces were psychologically ready for war.
"Our capability in the air is overwhelming and our capability for offensive warfare is growing," said Heisbourg.
But he added, "What will be left of Kuwait if we wait for sanctions to force the Iraqis to relent?" He said the Iraqis were rapidly dismantling the conquered emirate.