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Coalition making progress: Gen Franks
rediff Newsdesk | March 24, 2003 20:46 IST
The commander-in-chief of the US Central Command, General Tommy Franks, on Monday described as "rapid" and "in some cases dramatic" the progress towards "our objectives" in Iraq.
At a briefing at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, he said a number of ships had been loaded with humanitarian assistance and they would start delivering within the next few days.
The US forces had met sporadic resistance in a number of places, the general said, adding there would be casualties.
The Central Command showed pictures of some hits scored by American and British forces in southern and central Iraq.
The images, shot from the air, included a MiG fighter that had been hidden near a riverbed, an airfield, an armoured personnel carrier and a tank.
They also showed before and after images of different 'regime targets' in Baghdad to demonstrate the effectiveness of the precision-guided munitions.
Brigadier General Vince Brooks, one of Gen Franks' staff officers, admitted that the American forces had lost an attack helicopter near Nasiriyah.
The Central Command had dropped 28 million leaflets over Iraq, 5 million more than in the 1991 war, with different messages targeted at the Iraqi army and the people. The leaflets included exhortations to the army to lay down arms and instructions on how to capitulate to the invading force. They also warned Iraqis from releasing oil into the Persian Gulf or damaging oil wells.
According to Gen franks, the leaflets had had the desired effect, with several Iraqi units simply abandoning their posts and weapons and walking away, leaving the area wide open for the invaders.
Gen franks said that the war would be fought on the terms of the US. That is why, he said, the Americans were not engaging all the Iraqi units that they had come across and leaving most of the towns untouched. The Iraqi government was trying to put its people in the line of fire by forcing the Americans to fight in the cities, he said.
Gen franks said he was not surprised by the tenacity of the fight put up by some Iraqi units. He said there were some units like the fidayeen and the Republican Guards who were loyal to the government. "We have come across some dead-enders and we have seen some terrific fire-fights," he said.
General franks said there were a "great many areas" under coalition control. He said that the people of Basra in the days ahead would have more access to food and water than they have had in decades. He said large number of coalition forces would continue to move in and around the towns and villages where sporadic resistance was being put up by Iraqi units.
The general also said that the US-led forces had taken 3,000 Iraqis prisoners of war.
He said they have received information about several locations where weapons of mass destruction could be located.
Asked if a suspected chemical weapons plant near Najaf had been found to be free of chemical agents, he tried to skirt the question, then said he wouldn't be surprised either way. He claimed that the only real way to identify WMD sites would be when people associated with them were interrogated.
He claimed that it was fear alone that was keeping the people from rising against Saddam. "Fear tactics are still being applied in many of these locations."
Gen Franks said he had no idea why the Iraqis had not used any chemical or biological weapons so far. There was a school of thought, he said, that the use of such weapons could become more likely as the Americans close in on Baghdad. "As the compression becomes tighter and tighter, the pressure will become greater and greater to use these weapons," he said. "We don't know if he will and we don't know when he will."
But he warned Saddam against using them. He added that the Iraqi president was capable of issuing orders for the use of such weapons.
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