20 January 2002
Powell Says Saudis Not Asking for U.S. Forces Withdrawal
(Powell, Rumsfeld interviewed on Mideast, South Asia, China) (600)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- Secretary of State Colin Powell says that contrary to
published news reports, the Saudi government is not asking the United
States to withdraw its military forces from Saudi Arabia.
"In my conversations with the Saudi leaders as recently as just about
four or five days ago with Prince Saud, I've had no suggestion from
them that they were about to ask us to leave," Powell said January 20
in an interview from Tokyo with ABC's "This Week" news program.
"We've always wanted to maintain a presence in that part of the world
for a variety of reasons." He said the Saudi people know the United
States is part of a collective defense agreement. "The Saudis have
been good hosts and our troops have been good guests," he said.
Powell said U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Persian
Gulf region provide a presence to deter Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and
provide "a symbol of American presence, influence, and need."
"We have come to their aid before," Powell said. "And, obviously, we
try not to interfere with Saudi life and we try not to be a problem to
any of the countries in which we have our troops."
The United States maintains several thousand military personnel in
Saudi Arabia, mostly at the Prince Sultan Air Base near Riyadh, which
played a critical role in the U.S. military campaign against the
Taliban and al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan. The U.S.
military has maintained a security presence in the country after
leading a multi-nation coalition to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait
in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
"As long as these deployments are needed and serve a purpose, then I
think they will be welcomed by the countries in the region, as long as
we make the case to them and they understand why our troops are
there," Powell said.
In a separate interview with NBC News January 20, Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld said there is no evidence al-Qaida leader Osama bin
Laden has died from kidney disease.
"He could be dead, he could be alive, he could be in Afghanistan, he
could be somewhere else," Rumsfeld said. "We're looking for him, and I
think we'll find him."
However, Rumsfeld said the important thing to understand is that bin
Laden and Taliban leader Mohammad Omar are no longer functioning
effectively leading their terrorist networks, and "they are running,
they are hiding and we are after them."
He also underscored remarks by Powell earlier that the longstanding
U.S.-Saudi relationship is strong, and he has not had any discussions
with the Saudi government on U.S. military forces leaving the country.
Rumsfeld also confirmed a report from the U.S. Central Command that
two U.S. Marines were killed and five others were injured January 20
in the crash of a CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter in Afghanistan. He
said from early reports it appears the helicopter crash was the result
of mechanical failure, not enemy fire.
The helicopter and crew were on a resupply mission when the craft
crashed in high mountain terrain, a Central Command spokesman said.
The helicopter left Bagram Air Base north of the Afghan capital Kabul
with another helicopter and later made a "hard landing" approximately
40 miles to the south, the spokesman said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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