Many of the U.S. troops based in Saudi Arabia are to begin moving to safer quarters soon to deter possible attacks by terrorists using huge truck bombs or even chemical or biological weapons, officials said Wednesday.
“It will be costly….It is going to require substantial support from the Congress,” Defense Secretary William Perry told reporters.
Perry said terrorists are “trying to drive us out of Saudi Arabia,” and the U.S. military must “prepare for a very intense threat” as they continue their mission inside Saudi Arabia.
Perry stressed that final decisions have not been made and said he has met with about 20 senators seeking support for the move. The defense secretary plans a similar session with House members today, officials said.
The move could relocate up to 4,000 of the U.S. men and women working in northern Saudi Arabia with Operation Southern Watch, which monitors a “no-fly” zone over southern Iraq, Perry said.
Those troops, who live in a complex of apartment buildings outside Dhahran, were the targets of a June 25 bomb blast that claimed the lives of 19 U.S. servicemen.
After Perry made his remarks, a senior administration official told reporters the moves inside Saudi Arabia would begin “within weeks, not months.”
The official also dismissed reports of Saudi government resistance, contending the kingdom’s leaders supports the idea of using extra precautions to guarantee U.S. forces’ safety.
Perry, speaking candidly about a sensitive subject, said U.S. forces must be protected from “chemical weapon attack, biological weapon attack, bombs even bigger than 3,000 pounds - bombs in the 10,000- to 20,000-pound category - mortar attacks.” The bomb used at Dhahran was believed to have been in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 pounds.