- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

The United States is deploying troops fast enough to allow President Bush to order an invasion of Iraq next month, U.S. officials and military analysts say.
There are about 60,000 sailors, Marines, airmen and soldiers in Turkey and in the Persian Gulf region. Those troops include a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division in Kuwait. In the next few weeks, the number could top 100,000. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is set to sign additional deployment orders. An Army official said yesterday that the 1st Cavalry and 101st Airborne divisions are likely candidates.
The 3rd Infantry's other two brigades at bases in Georgia are shipping soldiers to the Gulf. Hundreds of soldiers made stoic good-byes as they shipped out yesterday.
Two Navy carrier battle groups, backed by Marine Expeditionary Units, are in the Gulf area, and two more aircraft carriers are poised to sail. Marines based in California are headed to the region.
A timetable for war seems to revolve around Jan. 27, when chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix will report to the Security Council on whether Iraq is complying with the new U.N. disarmament resolution.
At that time, Mr. Bush may decide whether Iraq's failure to account for weapons of mass destruction is sufficient to trigger an invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials have said Iraq's lengthy declaration fails to account for prohibited weapons identified by the United Nations in the 1990s that were never found.
Mr. Bush said yesterday that Saddam's new charge that U.N. inspectors are spying for the United States does not encourage a peaceful resolution.
"I thought that was an interesting statement on his part," Mr. Bush told reporters. "And when you combine that with the fact that his declaration was clearly deficient, it is discouraging news for those of us who want to resolve this issue peacefully."
In a Friday speech to U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, the president gave a preview of what his argument for war might look like after Jan. 27.
"Four years ago, U.N. inspectors concluded that Iraq had failed to account for large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, weapons capable of killing millions," he told soldiers of the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry divisions. "In last month's declaration, Iraq again failed to account for those weapons. The Iraqi dictator did not even attempt to submit a credible declaration."
The 1st and 4th divisions are likely to contribute troops to any Gulf war. A spokesman said yesterday that the units had not received an alert order to prepare to deploy. The 3rd Infantry division got such an order last week.
While military planners look at February as the optimum time to begin an attack because of the weather, Pentagon officials say there is no definite timetable and that a summer war is possible.
Two European-based Army divisions, the 1st Armored and 1st Infantry, also are likely to participate. The Bush administration is trying to persuade Turkey, which allowed combat aircraft to use its bases in the 1991 Desert Storm operation, this time to also play host to ground troops who would create a northern front inside Iraq.
In all, Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., is assembling a force of about 250,000 troops. Between 60,000 and 80,000 ground troops will make the initial invasion, after air strikes that last fewer than 10 days, according to U.S. officials. Other units will be kept in reserve and airlifted inside Iraq if the first wave bogs down.
About 20,000 British troops may join the fight, and a Pentagon official said the French also will provide units.
The campaign's theme will be lightning-fast strikes designed to quickly disable Saddam's command authority and sever communication lines to his troops, some of whom are likely to switch sides.
The air strikes and ground offensives are expected to begin at night. Since the 1991 Gulf war, the Army has developed improved night-vision goggles and sensors that enable helicopter aviators and ground forces to conduct operations in darkness. Few foreign armies, including Iraq's, can match this nocturnal capability.
Iraq's active-duty military of about 400,000 troops is less than half its 1991 strength. Most problematic for the coalition are six Republican Guard divisions and four brigades of Special Republican Guards dedicated to Saddam's security.
Iraq maintains these units to the highest standards possible. But they pale in comparison to the American military. The U.S. Army's Apache helicopters and M1A1 tanks can spot and put deadly fire on armored vehicles before the enemy sees them.
Iraq's air force is in disorder and its air defenses, despite help from Chinese technicians, are not nearly as formidable as 12 years ago.
Much of the network was destroyed in the 1991 war. Economic sanctions have prevented Baghdad from rebuilding the entire system. One Air Force source said there are about 60 anti-aircraft sites outside the allied-enforced southern and northern no-fly zones.
In the no-fly zones, coalition jets have chipped away at air-defense batteries, command centers, control nodes and radars
"In 1991, the Iraqis had one of the best air-defense systems in the world much better than what we had in NATO at that time," said retired Air Force Col. John Warden, who played a major role in planning the Desert Storm air campaign. "It had taken years to build and massive participation by the French, who supplied the technology for it.
"I believe it impossible for the Iraqis to have done much more than cob together some old stuff and maybe buy a handful of new missiles or something. The idea that they could impose more damage on us today than in 1991 just does not seem credible."
As Gen. Franks continues to fine-tune his plan, American units are preparing. On Friday, the Pentagon ordered units of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to deploy to the Gulf from Southern California.
The Army's 3rd Infantry division is sending 11,000 soldiers, and V Corps in Europe is dispatching engineers and intelligence specialists.

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