Bush approves revisions in U.S. war strategy

Thursday, March 27, 2003

The United States has revised its strategy in the war against Iraq.

Officials said the White House approved the revisions in wake of new assessments regarding Iraqi military strength and the resilience of the regime of President Saddam Hussein. They said a previous assessment that the regime would quickly collapse in the wake of an a air bombing campaign has been proven incorrect.

On Wednesday, Bush reviewed war plans at Central Command's permanent headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Officials said Bush was briefed on the arrival of new armored and infantry forces from the United States to Iraq to bolster the expected siege of Baghdad.

As a result, officials said, President George Bush has ordered intensified bombings of Iraqi targets that are not regarded as purely military. They include irregular forces, Information Ministry, civilian communications and broadcast facilities and installations of the ruling Baath Party. Earlier plans had sought to avoid damage to such civilian infrastructure as bridges and oil wells.

Administration officials said the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have agreed on a series of measures meant to reinforce the military presence in Iraq and accelerate the campaign to topple the regime. They said the plans, drafted before the start of the war, are meant to intensify bombings on regime targets and avoid a drawn-out war that could last months.

"We have seen, just over the last couple days, shifts both in strategy that came out, and shifts in the fortunes on the battlefield," a senior Pentagon official said. "And that's what ebb and flow is about."

Until Tuesday, officials said, only 50 percent of proposed targets were approved the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Central Command. Central Command, which operates a temporary headquarters in Qatar, is responsible for the conduct of the war.

"We have an effective plan of battle and the flexibility to meet every challenge," Bush told hundreds of U.S. Army troops at McDill Air Force base. The reinforcements will include the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, comprised of 33,000 troops. The division is regarded as the most lethal force in the service.

The U.S. move to bolster forces around Baghdad is expected to delay any attack on the Iraqi capital until next week, officials said. They said the military does not see the current allied force level as sufficient for an effective siege of or attack on the city.

Currently, more than 250,000 U.S. troops and 40,000 British soldiers are participating in the war against Iraq. They are expected to focus on eroding Republican Guard force in an area with a radius of 100 kilometers around Baghdad before they advance on the capital.

Officials said the White House decision has resulted in heavier attacks on Baghdad, including civilian areas that contain military and strategic installations. They said the attacks can be expected to result in collateral damage and civilian casualties.

U.S. Central Command said on Wednesday that coalition aircraft used precision-guided weapons to target nine Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles in Baghdad. The command said most of the batteries were stationed less than 100 meters from a residential area. Iraq said 14 people were killed in the air attack.

"Military targets such as the missiles and launchers placed in Baghdad are a threat to coalition military forces and will be attacked," Central Command said in a statement. "While the coalition goes to great lengths to avoid injury to civilians and damage to civilian facilities, in some cases such damage is unavoidable when the regime places military weapons near civilian areas."

The Pentagon has requested $62.6 billion for an emergency supplemental budget to maintain the war in Iraq. Officials said the funding assumes what they termed a "short duration, high-intensity conflict" that will not last beyond several weeks.

The budget request calls for the procurement of thousands of precision-guided weapons, bombs and Tomahawk cruise missiles. The United States deployed more than 600 Tomahawks and 4,300 JDAMs during the first five days of the war.

"How far we will continue to use them at that rate is of course a big unknown," the senior official said. "It very much depends on what happens in the battlefield."

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