American Forces Press Service

Cohen Touts Defense Cooperation in Gulf


  By Jim Garamone
 American Forces Press Service

 DOHA, Qatar -- The Cooperative Defense Initiative was one 
 subject of discussion when Defense Secretary William S. 
 Cohen met Oct. 19 with Qatari leaders.
 At a news conference following the meeting with Amir Hamad 
 bin Khalifa Al Thani, Cohen called Qatar a "key element" in 
 promoting regional peace and stability. Only about 50 
 American service members are based in the country, but 
 Qatar is the site of a brigade's worth of U.S. military 
 Under the March 1999 initiative, the United States and its 
 gulf allies would work together to build and operate 
 defenses against foes who would use weapons of mass 
 destruction. Cohen said he is working with all the gulf 
 states and Saudi Arabia on the initiative and all are 
 showing varying degrees of progress.
 The kind of cooperation Cohen is pursuing is to have an 
 early warning system so the allies can share information in 
 the event of a missile strike. He proposed active defense, 
 a theater missile defense, and passive defenses such as 
 protective gear and gas masks.
 Cohen also proposed sharing information on consequence 
 management. This refers to what would happen after a 
 strike. The United States, he said, has a vigorous ongoing 
 program to help about 150 cities anticipate and prepare 
 what they would need to do should they be victims of a 
 chemical or biological attack.
 He said the United States can help train first responders, 
 such as the police or fire fighters who would be among the 
 first public officials on a disaster scene. The training 
 prepares them to detect and classify the threat and 
 provides them the expertise they need to respond correctly. 
 Cohen cited America's recently created Joint Task Force-
 Civil Support as an example of the type of planning 
 expertise the gulf states will need. The task force is part 
 of U.S. Joint Forces Command and plans the types of 
 intelligence, logistics and transportation support civilian 
 authorities would need in the event of a strike.
 "We can help the gulf states face the threat of weapons of 
 mass destruction," Cohen said. Such cooperation could lead 
 to other efforts, he added. "We're also discussing the 
 prospect of combined military planning. We can, together, 
 improve interoperability between our forces that will 
 ultimately strengthen regional deterrence."