A union of West African nations announced plans to send 1,000 peacekeeping troops to Liberia with logistical and "some other support" from the United States.
A U.S. military team was in the West African nation assessing the possibility of a larger American deployment, but President Bush said Wednesday that he won't overextend U.S. forces. In an appearance with South African President Thabo Mbeki in Pretoria, Bush repeated the assertion he made Tuesday in Senegal that the United States will work to enforce the cease-fire in an undetermined way.
"My answer to people is that we won't overextend our troops, period," he said.
While expectant Liberians cheered the U.S. military team in Monrovia, the unexpected announcement from Accra, Ghana, by the Economic Community of West African States underscored the uncertainty of U.S. involvement.
Mbeki also suggested the U.S. role could be more limited than a direct military one. He said the United States could "lend support to those processes, processes of restoration of peace, making sure people don't starve, making sure that there's a restoration of democracy in Liberia."
Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was indicted on charges of crimes against humanity by a U.N.-backed court, said Sunday that he would leave and accept an offer of asylum in Nigeria. Taylor said his exit would fulfill Bush's most public condition for U.S. involvement.
The 32-member U.S. military team arrived Monday in the Liberian capital to assess the humanitarian and security situation. Thousands of jubilant Liberians hailed them as evidence that salvation was at hand.
U.S. and Liberian officials make clear that the U.S. deployment is far from certain.
"There seem to be two schools of thought," Liberian Defense Minister Daniel Chea said shortly after meeting with leaders of the U.S. team Tuesday. One option, he said, would bring U.S. troops to Liberia as the backbone of a multinational force that eventually would be taken over by forces from other nations. The other is to give a West African force financial and logistical support, Chea said. "They'll both be fine."
Wednesday's announcement from Accra that the regional bloc would send a thousand troops in two weeks included no details.