Skip to comments.Powell Says No Saudi Pullout Talks
Posted on 01/18/2002 8:35:43 AM PST by RCW2001
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Powell Says No Saudi Pullout Talks
Secretary of State Powell Says U.S., Saudi Arabia Haven't Discussed American Troop Withdrawal
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the Bush administration has not discussed with Saudi Arabia the possibility of removing U.S. military forces from the kingdom.
And President Bush "believes that the current arrangements are working and working well," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
At a news conference in Katmandu, Nepal, Powell was asked about a Washington Post report that Saudi Arabia's rulers may soon ask that the United States withdraw its military forces. The report quoted an unnamed senior Saudi official as saying Saudi rulers believe the United States has stayed too long.
U.S. forces have been stationed in Saudi Arabia since the 1990 buildup to the Gulf War. They primarily are at Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh, the capital.
"The president believes that our presence in the region has a very helpful and stabilizing effect in a region that is a dangerous one," Fleischer said at the White House.
Powell said he talks to Saudi officials every other day.
"There has been no discussion of such an issue," he said.
"There's nothing in that story that warrants the attention of myself" or of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, he added.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, said the Saudi government has not asked that U.S. forces leave the kingdom.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Earlier this week, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the United States should consider moving its military personnel from Saudi Arabia because the Saudi government has been antagonistic toward them.
"We need a base in that region, but it seems to me we should find a place that is more hospitable," Levin said. "I don't think they want us to stay there."
"I just think the Saudis actually think somehow they are doing us a favor by having us be there helping to defend them and helping to be in a position to go after terrorists and terrorist states," Levin said.
Separately, Air Force Secretary James Roche, asked by reporters about the Post story, said the Air Force is not looking for alternatives to Saudi Arabia as host of a major U.S. air coordination center.
The centerpiece of U.S. military operations in Saudi Arabia is a high-tech facility called a combined air operations center, which coordinates U.S. air operations in the region including missions flown over Afghanistan since October.
"I have not been asked to look for alternatives, so I cannot comment" on the story, Roche said.
He said cooperation from the Saudis has been excellent.
"If there are some larger policy issues, they are above my pay grade," he said.
Roche said the Saudis had in no way hindered U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
"Everything we have asked of the Saudi government they have done for us," he said.
Roche was asked how big the loss would be if the Saudis insisted on ending the U.S. military presence.
"It would be difficult, unless we could replicate" the air operations center somewhere else," he said.