Thursday, April 03, 2003
As the noose tightens the battle could grow more difficult.
Overnight lead elements of United States Army and Marine forces closed within 20 miles of downtown Baghdad from two directions.
As Baghdad is encircled, local weather predictions and intelligence are making US commanders more wary of an Iraqi chem/bio attack. "There's an old military saying: If your attack is going well, it's an ambush," said Col. Larry Brown, the chief operations officer for Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, the top Marine commander in Iraq. “Senior U.S. commanders expressed confidence that their troops have crushed one of the six Republican Guard divisions ringing Baghdad, severely damaged two others and effectively cut off the capital from the southern and eastern sections of the country”, reported the Washington Post Foreign Service.
While American air power has destroyed “large numbers” of Iraqi armor, The New York Times reports Allied aircraft making over 1000 sorties per day, air has failed to stop the “melting” of Republican Guard elements back into central Baghdad as a guerrilla force. "If it becomes an all-out, hand-to-hand urban battle for Baghdad, then we'll have done something wrong," a senior military official said. Indeed, if the dramatic Army and Marine armored ground assault continues its success with nominal air support we are looking at a possible evolutionary moment in military history. Of course it should be noted that nominal is, according to a military official quoted in this morning’s NYT, “…in the two-week campaign, allied forces fired more than 700 cruise missiles and dropped more than 10,000 precision-guided bombs. More than half of those bombs have been dropped in the past five days.”
Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters