The United States has been drafting a timetable for the
battle for Baghdad as officials acknowledge that the wait for sufficient
troop reinforcements could take weeks.
U.S. Marine and Army units have already arrived in positions on the
outskirts of the Iraqi capital. But both Defense Department officials and
military commanders agree that the force level and supply lines are
inadequate for a sustained attack on Baghdad.
So far, about 90,000 U.S. troops have been deployed in Iraq Ñ facing
more than 150,000 Republican Guard and paramilitary troops in and around
Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said Central Command is preparing to deploy at least
another 100,000 troops in Iraq. The units include the army's 1st Armored
Division, 1st Cavalry Division and the 2nd and 3rd Armored Cavalry
Officials said high-level discussions are taking place within the Bush
administration, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Central Command over the
conditions required to launch an attack on Baghdad. They said President
George Bush has already approved orders for intensified air attacks on a
range of military and dual-use regime targets in the city.
"The campaign could well grow more dangerous in the coming days and
weeks as the forces close in on Baghdad and begin to have to deal with the
Republican Guard forces north of Tikrit [and] south of Baghdad," Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "It's only reasonable to expect that it will
require the coalition forces moving through some Republican Guard units and
destroying them or capturing them before you'll see the crumbling of the
The U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force and the 101st Airborne Division are said to be within striking
distance of Baghdad. On Friday, U.S. warplanes pounded Baghdad for the
second straight day. For the first time, the United States used B-52 bombers
dropping bunker-busters on regime targets in the city.
A key question, officials said, is whether the allied assault on Baghdad
should wait for the deployment of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division,
based in Fort Hood, Texas. The first group of soldiers could arrive early
next week, but the unit of about 30,000 troops could require up to two weeks
to take up positions in Iraq.
The 4th Infantry, the only fully digitized division in the army, is said
to be equipped with 20 AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, 200 M1A2 main
battle tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. The division also contains four
battalions equipped with Paladin self-propelled howitzers and multiple
launch rocket systems.
"The full combat power will come to bear quickly and decisively upon an
enemy who has no idea of the combined weaponry getting ready to strike him,"
Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, division commander, said.
The use of the 4th Infantry Division has been a nagging concern for
military commanders and Pentagon officials. The division waited six weeks to
enter Turkey Ñ which denied the U.S. request Ñ and 30 ships that carry
equipment for the unit crossed the Suez Canal on their way to the Arabian
Peninsula and Persian Gulf.
At that point, officials said, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mulled
the possibility that the division should stay out of the war, which he and
other senior administration officials expected would take no more than 10
days. But a series of ferocious battles with Iraqi Republican Guard troops
prompted a decision to immediately order the division to Iraq.
The administration had pressed Saudi Arabia to allow the 4th Infantry
division to move its equipment through the kingdom to save time. But
officials said Riyad has rejected the U.S. request for the docking of 30
ships at the port of Dammam.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has deployed five Republican Guard
divisions in and around Baghdad. Iraqi officials predicted a siege of the
Iraqi capital would begin next week.
"It will be no surprise that in five to 10 days they will be able to
encircle all our positions in Baghdad," Iraqi Defense Minister Sultan Hashim
Ahmed said. "They have the capability to do so. But they have to come into
the city eventually."