WASHINGTON April 10 —
With the fall of Baghdad, top priorities for American forces in
Iraq now are recovering U.S. prisoners of war including any still
alive from the 1991 Gulf War securing the northern oil fields and
unearthing illegal weapons, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
Another must is to capture "or otherwise deal with" Saddam
Hussein and his sons, Rumsfeld said.
At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld and his top military
adviser, Gen. Richard Myers, attempted to strike a balance between
celebration and caution declaring the Iraqi president's rule all but
dead but also emphasizing that much remains to be done before U.S.
troops can go home.
U.S. troops have been through most areas of Baghdad, Pentagon
officials said later Wednesday. Sporadic attacks from pockets of
resistance continued, but no organized, large-scale fighting,
Rumsfeld listed eight missions in Iraq that must be completed
"before victory can be declared."
He mentioned first the need to "capture, account for or otherwise
deal with" Saddam, his sons Qusai and Odai, and other senior members
of the government whom he did not mention by name.
Rumsfeld said he didn't know whether Saddam and his sons escaped
the U.S. bombing Monday of a building in Baghdad where U.S.
intelligence believed they were attending a meeting. And he made no
promises about finding the Iraqi leader.
"It is hard to find a single person," he said, adding later,
"He's either dead or he's incapacitated or he's healthy and cowering
in some tunnel some place trying to avoid being caught."
Senior White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said there is no checklist that must be completed before Bush
declares victory. The end could come before some of Rumsfeld's
stated missions are achieved, possibly including the confirmation of
Saddam's fate, they said.
Rumsfeld listed these other remaining U.S. tasks:
Discover more about how Saddam built his weapons programs and
locate Iraqi scientists with knowledge of them. He said U.S.
government rewards are being offered to further those goals.
Capture or kill terrorists still operating in Iraq.
Find members of Saddam's Baath Party and their records and
weapons caches. Also, locate records of the Iraqi intelligence
service and other security organizations and paramilitaries.
Work with Iraqis, including those who are returning from exile,
to establish an interim government authority.
The air campaign in Iraq is slowing somewhat, now that Baghdad
resistance has been broken. But U.S. ground forces are as busy as
ever, and within a few days they are expected to be bolstered by the
deployment of a portion of the Army's 4th Infantry Division into
Iraq. The 4th Infantry is still assembling in Kuwait and is
preparing to join the fight in central or northern Iraq, a senior
defense official said Wednesday. Other follow-on forces may come
Rumsfeld said Syria was being "notably unhelpful" by permitting
senior Iraqi officials and some of their family members to slip into
their country, and he accused the Syrians of ignoring an earlier
warning to stop supplying Iraq with military equipment like night
"We are getting scraps of intelligence saying that Syria has been
cooperative in facilitating the movement of people out of Iraq into
Syria," Rumsfeld said. Some have stayed in Syria for "safekeeping,"
while others transited Syria to other countries he did not mention
Myers, appearing with Rumsfeld, urged any Iraqis who are holding
American POWs to permit the International Red Cross to visit them as
required under international conventions.
"When the hostilities end, we fully expect to find these young
men and women in good health and well cared for," Myers said.
The Pentagon lists seven American POWs all Army soldiers. Six are
male and one is female. There also are eleven U.S. servicemen listed
as missing, including two Air Force pilots of an F-15E fighter lost
Sunday near Tikrit, north of Baghdad. As of Wednesday, 101 U.S.
servicemen had been killed in action since the war began March 20,
according to the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld also alluded to the undetermined fate of the only
remaining POW from the first Gulf War, Navy F/A-18 pilot Scott
Speicher. Without mentioning him by name, Rumsfeld said U.S. forces
in Iraq must "ensure the safe return of prisoners of war those
captured in this war, as well as any still held from the last Gulf
War, Americans and other nationals." His reference to "other
nationals" apparently meant Kuwaitis who remain unaccounted for from
Marines who captured Rasheed air base just southeast of Baghdad
found uniforms believed to be those of at least two U.S. POWs. Some
of the uniforms reportedly had blood stains and bullet holes.
The uniforms were found in a military prison at Rasheed where
U.S. POWs were held in the 1991 war.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the Central Command deputy director of
operations, said Wednesday that some of the uniforms found in the
prison had names on them. He declined to identify them.
The United States says it has about 7,300 Iraqi POWs and the
International Red Cross is getting access to them.
|U.S. Army soldiers from A
Company 3rd Battalion 7th Infantry Regiment prepare to return
fire on Iraqi fighters in Baghdad, Iraq Wednesday, April 9,
2003. (AP Photo/John Moore)|
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