WASHINGTON March 28 —
America's battle plan for Baghdad is taking shape, with U.S.
forces now in position to strike the Iraqi capital from nearly all
sides or to mount a siege and wait for Saddam Hussein's regime to
fall to internal opposition.
As sporadic battles rage between American infantry and defiant
Iraqi troops and paramilitary guerrillas, more armor and at least
100,000 reinforcing U.S. and allied troops are on their way to join
the coalition force over the next few weeks.
In the interim, the American game plan is simple: bombs, bombs
and more bombs.
U.S. and British aircraft are pounding some of the estimated
30,000 Republican Guard forces arrayed around Baghdad and striking
inside the capital against Saddam's levers of power and modes of
The military early Friday rolled out new weapons two 4,700-pound,
satellite-guided "bunker busting" bombs were dropped from American
B-2 bombers on a major communications tower on the east bank of the
Tigris River in downtown Baghdad. The bombs were twice the size of
the bunker busting bombs that were being used before.
While the coalition war plan is flexible and certain to shift
with events, U.S. leaders say they are operating on three rock-solid
certainties: They won't lose. They won't set a timetable. And they
won't let up until Saddam is gone.
"There isn't going to be a cease-fire," Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld told lawmakers on Thursday.
Rumsfeld also raised the possibility of a siege of Baghdad rather
than a quick strike into the heart of the city.
Asked by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., what American ground troops
would do once they reached Baghdad, Rumsfeld answered by saying
Baghdad had to be isolated before it was taken.
He also alluded to what is happening at Basra, Iraq's
second-largest city. British forces there have laid siege, hoping
for a successful uprising by the city's Shiite population.
Rumsfeld noted that both Basra and Baghdad have large numbers of
Shiites. "And they are not terribly favorable to the regime. They've
been repressed," Rumsfeld said.
American Army and Marine infantry forces are arrayed to the south
of Baghdad, some within 50 miles of the capital. They are led by the
Army's 3rd Infantry and 101st Airborne divisions and the 1st Marine
Coalition special operations forces are working both in western
and northern Iraq, and the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade has secured
an airfield in the north with 1,000 paratroopers. And more are on
The movements suggest a strategy to encircle Baghdad with U.S.
troops much as Saddam has ringed the city with his best trained and
best equipped Republican Guard forces.
Special forces have cleared large areas of western Iraq, creating
a crucial buffer to ensure Saddam's forces cannot launch missile
strikes on neighbors such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, a
senior U.S. military commander said.
About 90,000 U.S. troops are inside Iraq, a senior defense
official said Thursday, adding that was an increase of about 14,000
in just two days. More than 250,000 U.S. troops are in the region,
including thousands aboard Navy ships at sea, on air bases in
surrounding countries and at headquarters encampments.
Another 100,000 to 120,000 ground troops are expected to begin
arriving in Kuwait in coming days, including the Army's 4th
Infantry, 1st Armored and 1st Cavalry divisions.
Airstrikes continue throughout Iraq, focusing again Thursday on
the Hammurabi and Medina divisions of the Republican Guard located
to the north, west and south of Baghdad.
"We're tightening the noose around Saddam," Col. Tom Bright said
Thursday in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" from U.S.
Central Command headquarters near Doha, Qatar. "We're going to
continue to take the fight to him. We're taking it to him from the
south and the west and the north."
Iraq's defense minister on Thursday confirmed what many U.S.
military officials suspected was Saddam's strategy: Draw the
coalition ground troops into Baghdad for a long, bloody,
"The enemy must come inside Baghdad, and that will be its grave,"
Defense Minister Sultan Hashim Ahmed said. "We feel that this war
must be prolonged so the enemy pays a high price."
Rumsfeld said coalition troops would work to destroy the
Republican Guard, but cautioned "it's very likely that will be some
of the toughest fighting that will occur."
On the Net:
|A U.S. Marine with 3rd Batt.,
7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, guards a highway south of
Baghdad, Iraq on Thursday, March 27, 2003. (AP Photo/Laura
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