Military Strapped in Pacific, Europe
By Vicki Allen
Wed Mar 20, 2002, 3:32 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military would be without adequate forces in the Pacific and European regions if resources continue to be diverted to Afghanistan and the United States strikes Iraq, commanders of those regions said on Wednesday.
Gen. Joseph Ralston, chief of the command for the European region, and Admiral Dennis Blair, chief of the Pacific command, told the House Armed Services Committee their forces already were strapped.
" We do not have adequate forces to carry out our missions in the Pacific if the operations in Central Command continue at their ... current pace, " Blair said of the effort in Afghanistan to root out the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, which Washington blames for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
With the Bush administration weighing military action against Iraq, which President Bush included in his " axis of evil, " the commanders said that would put additional strain on their regions.
" We do not have forces to do the missions you have outlined, " Ralston told Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, top Democrat on the panel who posed the question.
Skelton said he found their remarks " very frank, very forthright and very troubling. "
Blair said the Pacific command could work around it for a while, but said it faces " shortages of naval forces, of intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance forces. "
The Pacific Command, which covers 43 countries, is helping to train Philippines forces to fight the Abu Sayyaf Islamic extremist group that is blamed for kidnapping and murder and which Washington says has links to al Qaeda.
Ralston, whose region covers 91 countries, said his command has not had an aircraft carrier " in many months, other than for the few days that they transit through the Mediterranean going to the Central Command. "
" Should we do the operations in addition to the ones we're doing now, and I've mentioned I'm already short to do that, I will come back to the chairman of the Joints Chiefs and the secretary of Defense and ask for additional forces and then they are confronted with choice, " Ralston said.
Ralston also said he believed there were al Qaeda members in the former Soviet state of Georgia. The Bush administration is considering sending military advises there too to help it fight terrorists.