"Bright Star" keeps low profile
- USA Today
October 1, 2001
War-Games Troops May Join Real Fight
By Thor Valdmanis, USA Today
CAIRO � A long-scheduled military exercise that is bringing 23,000 U.S.
troops to Egypt this month has taken on new dimensions as the United States
prepares its real-life war on terrorism. More than 3,000 U.S. troops are
already here for operation Bright Star, an exercise that runs Oct. 8 through
Nov. 1 and will involve 70,000 soldiers from 10 nations. The other 20,000
U.S. troops are expected in coming days. And while the Pentagon says the
number of U.S. troops taking part has not changed because the military is
preparing to go after suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who's
thought to be hiding in Afghanistan, interviews with senior U.S. officers
here indicate that many troops could go directly from Egypt to any battle
Some U.S. soldiers, who would not talk on-the-record, said Sunday that they
were given orders to come to the long-planned war games just a day or two
before departure. Others said they were given vague orders about what they
would be doing here � in one case, to fly supply missions on transport
planes to unknown destinations.
The U.S. soldiers said they have been ordered to keep a low profile and wear
civilian clothes when in public. Polls show a majority of Egyptians deplore
the terrorist attacks but also oppose any U.S. military retaliation. The
Egyptian government has not told its people about the Bright Star exercises.
The U.S. troops' presence here is not hard to detect, however. Many markets,
restaurants and large hotels this weekend were crowded with American men
sporting crew cuts and carrying green duffel bags.
No U.S. military or embassy officials would talk on-the-record about the
exercises or what troops here might do in the event of U.S. military action.
Egypt has remained calm since the attacks. But several of bin Laden's
lieutenants are from Egypt, as were some of the terrorists.
The other nations taking part in Bright Star with troops from the USA and
Egypt are Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Jordan and Kuwait.
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