- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

Missiles and guided bombs continued to slam into Baghdad targets yesterday as hundreds of tanks with thousands of U.S. troops marched north, coming within 100 miles of the Iraqi capital.
U.S. troops crossed the Euphrates River near the city of Nasiriya for the first time as British marines fought farther south at Basra. Near Basra, marines destroyed abandoned Iraqi tanks as they moved north.
Air Force A-10 tank-killer jets also flew bombing missions to hunt for Iraqi tanks and missile launchers. An Iraqi missile was fired at Kuwait and intercepted by Patriot anti-missile interceptors.
Defense officials said U.S. troops will begin flowing into northern Iraq soon as part of the military's "northern option." The troops will seek to secure oil fields in the northern part of the country that remain vulnerable to sabotage by Iraqi forces.
The deployment was delayed until an agreement was reached with the Turkish government to allow troop transports to fly into and out of Turkey on their way to Iraq. Other troops will move to the north from bases in Kuwait.
Loud explosions rocked downtown Baghdad as missiles and guided bombs hit buildings in the city, sending at least 20 plumes of smoke into the air. The military calls the operation "shock and awe" and it is designed to force a quick capitulation.
"This will be a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force," Gen. Tommy Franks, the Central Command commander in charge of the war, told reporters in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, where his headquarters is located.
U.S. and British warplanes flew 1,000 bombing strikes throughout Iraq yesterday, hitting a terrorist training camp in northern Iraq and air-defense sites in various parts of the country.
The terrorist camp near Khurmal was hit with between 45 and 50 missiles. It was a hide-out in a Kurdish-controlled area for the terrorist group Ansar al Islam.
Gen. Franks described the bombing as carried out against a "terrorist complex."
President Bush, in a radio address, said the war in Iraq could be "longer and more difficult than some have predicted" because of the harsh terrain in a country roughly the size of California.
"Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force," said Mr. Bush.
Bombing raids against air-defense sites in northern Iraq, including targets near Mosul, were carried out in preparation for air-assault forces near Kirkuk, the main oil-producing region in the north.
U.S. forces also seized an airfield in western Iraq that will be used by allied forces as a staging area for a drive toward Baghdad.
Bombing strikes continued in Baghdad last night, coming in waves of six to eight explosions. Many of the strikes were recorded by television cameras.
Iraqi forces also lit oil-filled trenches around Baghdad with the apparent goal of obscuring U.S. precision weapons. U.S. officials said the fires would have little effect on targeting.
At the Army's 101st Airborne Division based in Kuwait, a command tent was attacked early today with grenades. Military officials said one soldier died and 13 were wounded. An American soldier detained as a suspect had "an Arabic-sounding" name, CNN reported.
Gen. Franks said Iraqis are "welcoming" the advancing troops in southern Iraq. "This is about liberation and not about occupation," he said.
Turkish military incursions into northern Iraq have raised fears among some military officials that the Turks will attack Kurdish forces in the region.
Gen. Franks said Turkish military troops are moving in and out of Iraq and discussions in Turkey are aimed at preventing any disruptive activities.
Iran protested what the Tehran government said were incursions into Iran by two cruise missiles that went astray from their Iraqi targets. Military officials said they could not confirm that a Tomahawk or air-launched cruise missile may have fallen inside Iran's southern border.
Gen. Franks said there is an "ongoing dialogue" between U.S. and senior Iraqi officials regarding the ouster of Saddam Hussein. He did not elaborate.
The four-star general said the few casualties were "a blessing," but that tough fighting is expected in the coming days as troops advance toward Baghdad.
"We believe that we are on our timeline, as we say, and I am satisfied with what I see up to this point," said Gen. Franks.
The fate of Saddam also is unknown since the bombing of his compound Wednesday.
Asked the location of the Iraqi leader, Gen. Franks said. "I have no idea where his right now. I suppose we'll know in the days ahead."
The war is "not about that one personality," Gen. Franks said. "In fact, it is about this regime, and so that's what we're going to focus on."
In the southern city of Umm Qasr, allied forces took control but not after street-to-street fighting against pro-Saddam guerrillas in civilian clothes.
The Army's V Corps took the key river crossing city of Nasiriyah yesterday and U.S. military supply vehicles surged north, with hundreds of trucks and other vehicles jamming Route 80, the main highway from Kuwait to Baghdad.
"We have operations ongoing in the north, in the west, in the south, and in and around Baghdad," said Gen. Franks.
Forces of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division battled Iraqi troops about 45 miles southeast of the southeastern city of Najif early today, a Reuters reporter with the troops reported.
At the Pentagon, Army Brig. Gen. Stanley ChrystalChrystal summed up the day's operations, noting that "the forces have moved with impressive speed thus far."
U.S. Navy jets based on aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean conducted round-the-clock bombing missions, as did Air Force jets based in the region.
In Qatar, Army Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks said allied forces had achieved several key objectives, including attacks aimed at weakening Iraq's capability to shoot down U.S. and allied aircraft.
"The special operation forces then began looking for Saddam Hussein's and the regime's weapons of mass destruction and their ballistic missiles that threaten their neighbors," said Gen. Brooks. Iraqi patrol boats also were attacked, he said.
Gen. Brooks said the drive by Marines and Army troops into Iraq already has moved farther than the longest maneuver in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Information operations urging Iraqi military units not to fight have been effective in saving lives, he said.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 Iraqis have surrendered, said Gen. Brooks.

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