The New York Times A Nation at War March 31, 2003  

Job Market
Real Estate
- Africa
- Americas
- Asia Pacific
- Europe
- Middle East
New York Region
NYT Front Page
Readers' Opinions

NYC Guide
Dining & Wine
Home & Garden
Fashion & Style
Week in Review
Learning Network
Book a Trip
Theater Tickets
NYT Store
NYT Mobile
About NYTDigital
Jobs at NYTDigital
Online Media Kit
Our Advertisers
Your Profile
E-Mail Preferences
News Tracker
Premium Account
Site Help
Privacy Policy
Home Delivery
Customer Service
Electronic Edition
Media Kit
Community Affairs
Text Version

Go to Advanced Search/ArchiveGo to Advanced Search/ArchiveSymbol Lookup
Search Options divide
   REGISTER NOW.  It's Free!


Pace of Coalition War Plan Is Slowed, Not Paused


KUWAIT, March 30 For an American military on the offensive, there may be no more distasteful term than "operational pause." The military prides itself on seizing the initiative and applying relentless pressure to defeat its foe.

So it was not surprising that Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the chief of the United States Central Command, insisted today that the United States military was pressing ahead with its campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Reports from commanders in the field that they have been ordered to pause for a few days, General Franks insisted, are "simply not the case."


The situation, in fact, does not appear to be that simple. The unanticipated resistance from guerrilla forces in the south and the limited size of the American force in the region has slowed the tempo of the war plan.

Faced with threats in the rear, the need to guard supply lines, the imperative to consolidate logistics and the prospect of urban warfare in Baghdad, the allied forces are finding themselves confronting a multitude of tasks. The American military no longer has the luxury of concentrating on the Baghdad fight. Most military experts agree that the allies would be in a stronger position to advance on Baghdad had the Bush administration sent more troops.

In one sign today that troop transport to the area was being accelerated, a contingent of the Second Armored Calvary was told to fly directly to the gulf region.

It is not the case, though, that combat operations have ground to a halt. In fact, American land forces have begun a new phase of their campaign by resuming their attacks on the Republican Guard. These are limited attacks, but still a continuation of the offensive and a prelude for the decisive Baghdad battle to come. The goal is to force Iraqi troops out of their holes and revetments so they will be easier targets for the Air Force and to generally soften up the Republican Guard units that are defending Baghdad.

In recent days, for example, Army forces have attacked the Medina Division, the Republican Guard force guarding the southern approach to Baghdad. Apache helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division struck at Medina armor positions near the city of Karbala on Friday night.

The Third Infantry Division, for its part, has advanced 10 more miles. The Marines have also joined the attack on the Republican Guards. The Marines' Third Air Wing has bombed the Baghdad Division, an infantry unit that is stationed southeast of the city, and the Al Nida Division.

The Iraqis have responded to the attack by rushing more forces to the battlefields. As the Medina Division has been pounded from the air, Iraqi ground forces have been moving south to fill the gaps in the division's position.

The Adnan Division, a Republican Guard unit that was moved from Mosul to Tikrit, Mr. Hussein's hometown north of Baghdad, has moved again. Most of the division has now taken up positions close to Baghdad to strengthen the defense of the capital, while a small element is still in Tikrit.

A central issue before American commanders is whether to begin a major, all-out attack on the Republican Guards defending Baghdad with the current force or to wait for reinforcements to arrive. Eager to portray the American campaign in Iraq as an unqualified success, General Franks insisted that American forces were flowing to the region on a previously determined schedule and that he had made no requests for additional troops.

"The plan you see is the plan we have been on," General Franks said.

That is generally the case, but it is not the entire story. The Pentagon has planned to send the force in stages. The several divisions that are to be sent in the next several weeks or months were intended primarily to help stabilize Iraq after Mr. Hussein is toppled. But it was also recognized that the troops being sent were an insurance force that could be used in the invasion of Iraq if the opposition was unexpectedly stiff.

By putting off the main attack on Baghdad, General Franks could, in effect, build up the invasion force. But the Pentagon would be able to say that it was simply sticking to an earlier plan for placement of the troops and not making an emergency request for additional forces, a move that would be politically damaging and that would imply that American officials had not planned properly for the war.

Such a move could give the allies more forces to take on the Republican Guard, gain control of the cities in the south and stifle resistance from paramilitary units there and guard supply lines.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left the door open for this possibility today. "We have the power to be patient in this, and we're not going to do anything before we are ready," he said. " We'll just continue to draw the noose tighter and tighter."

An easy way to beef up the force, for example, is to wait for the Fourth Infantry Division. The Pentagon had kept the division off the coast of Turkey while it sought to win Turkey's approval for the American plan to open a second front from Turkish soil.

After weeks of fruitless waiting, the Bush administration finally ordered the ships carrying the division's weapons and equipment to steam for Kuwait. The Pentagon was so confident that it would quickly prevail that it started the war without the division, but now it may be needed for the fight in and around Baghdad.

Forum: Join a Discussion on A Nation at War

THREATS AND RESPONSES: MILITARY OPTIONS; Pentagon Ready to Strike Iraq Within Days if Bush Gives the Word, Officials Say  (March 6, 2003)  $

THREATS AND RESPONSES: WAR PREPARATIONS; U.S. Military Set to Provide Aid to Iraqi People in the Event of War, Commander Says  (February 11, 2003)  $

THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE U.S. COMMANDER; Rumsfeld Defends General Investigated by Pentagon  (February 5, 2003)  $

THREATS AND RESPONSES; U.S. to Add to Forces in Horn of Africa  (October 30, 2002)  $

Find more results for United States Armament and Defense and Franks, Tommy R .

Doing research? Search the archive for more than 500,000 articles:

E-Mail This Article
Printer-Friendly Format
Most E-Mailed Articles

Expect the World every morning with home delivery of The New York Times newspaper.
Click Here for 50% off.

Home | Back to International | Search | Corrections | Help | Back to Top

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company | Privacy Policy
E-Mail This Article
Printer-Friendly Format
Most E-Mailed Articles

Enlarge This Image

Associated Press
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the Central Command chief, reporting on the war's progress at a news conference Sunday in Doha, Qatar.

A Nation at War

In Depth
Times War Correspondents
Reports Throughout the Region
Dispatches | Michael R. Gordon
Our Chief Military Correspondent Analyzes U.S. Strategy
Business and the War
Impact on Economy and Markets


United States Armament and Defense
Franks, Tommy R
Create Your Own | Manage Alerts
Take a Tour
Sign Up for Newsletters