- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday rolled out its most-advanced land combat division for a war against Iraq, ordering the Army's 4th Infantry Division to deploy to the Persian Gulf from Fort Hood, Texas.

The deployment of the "Iron Horse" division marks the second of the Army's "heavy" divisions, along with the 3rd Infantry at Fort Stewart, Ga., to be tapped for a possible desert showdown.

More Army deployments of tank-heavy units are expected to follow as President Bush weighs a decision whether to order an invasion, perhaps in late February, to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Task Force Iron Horse," comprising 16,000 soldiers from the 4th Infantry and 20,000 supporting troops from 10 bases, is deploying as a special unit to confront Iraq.

By month's end, as many as 100,000 American troops may be positioned in the region. A total force of more than 200,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is expected to be in place, or on the way, by late February.

"Within weeks we can be over there," said Lt. Col. Dan Baggio, a 4th Infantry spokesman.

Tanks and other armored vehicles will move by rail to ports in Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas. Soldiers will board cargo jets for the trip to Kuwait in one or two weeks and unite there with their heavy weapons.

Britain, America's strongest ally in this face-off with Baghdad, announced yesterday that 26,000 troops had received orders to go to the region.

Of the Army's 10 active divisions, the 4th is its laboratory for systems developed in the 1990s. As a result, it will take new tools to battle: the advanced M1-A2 battle tank, a digitized system of communicating from a brigade commander to individual tanks and to Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and a new spy drone, the Shadow 200 RQ-7A.

The division also boasts Apache attack helicopters, which proved effective in the 1991 Gulf war by destroying Iraqi tanks from a safe range. The 4th is one of the few divisions to operate the more advanced AH-64D Longbow Apache. Improvements include "fire-and-forget" Hellfire anti-tank missiles and digital communications.

The 4th is commanded by Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, a West Point graduate and artillery officer with the 3rd Armored Division in the Gulf war. His division will join a burgeoning air, land and sea force assembling for what would be a lightning strike on Iraq from the south, east and north to seize Baghdad.

Eventually, Army sources say, the 1st Cavalry Division, also at Fort Hood, plus the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., and two heavy divisions in Germany also will deploy. Elements of the European-based units may head to bases in Turkey, from where they can activate a northern front against Iraq.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, was in Turkey yesterday discussing basing rights. The United States desires as many as 80,000 troops in the country, but Ankara wants to keep the deployment to fewer than 20,000, Turkish press reports say.

Turkey at first balked at letting the United States use Incirlik Air Base to strike Iraq in 1991, but then relented, permitting Air Force F-111 long-range fighters to launch missions.

Mr. Bush earlier this month traveled to Fort Hood and gave a rousing pep talk to 4th Infantry and 1st Cavalry soldiers, who responded with enthusiastic "hoo-ahs" the infantry's shout of approval.

The president seemed close to tears as he concluded his speech. The president, who has been briefed several times on war plans, knew then that many in the audience would be leaving soon for a possible war.

"We are ready. We're prepared," Mr. Bush told the soldiers Jan. 3. "And should the United States be compelled to act, our troops will be acting in the finest traditions of America, should we be forced to act. Should Saddam Hussein seal his fate by refusing to disarm, by ignoring the opinion of the world, you will be fighting not to conquer anybody, but to liberate people."

A senior U.S. official told The Washington Times last week that the administration was looking at a time window of Feb. 21-28 to launch an attack.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is one of several senior officials arguing that a "smoking gun" need not be disclosed to the world to justify an invasion. He believes sufficient justification lies in Iraq's long pattern of thwarting inspectors and failing to disclose weapons to be destroyed, as ordered by a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Yesterday, Mr. Rumsfeld told a symposium of the Reserve Officers Association, "No one wants war, but, as the president has said, Iraq will be disarmed, and the decision between war and peace will be made not in Washington, D.C., and not in the United Nations in New York, but rather in Baghdad. It is their decision. Either they will cooperate or they won't, and it will not take months to determine whether or not they are cooperating."

U.S. Central Command yesterday continued its low-grade air war against Iraq. Jets struck communication cables feeding into Iraq's network of air defense radars, batteries and command centers.

Central Command, which runs U.S. military operations in the Gulf region, said aircraft targeted eight "cable repeater sites" around 7 a.m. EST. The targets sit between al-Kut, 95 miles south of Baghdad, and an-Nasiriyah, 170 miles southeast of Baghdad.

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