U.S. forces near Baghdad

Sunday, March 30, 2003

U.S. forces plan to reach the outskirts of Baghdad by late Sunday.

U.S. military commanders said after three days of heavy fighting allied armor and infantry units have burst through Iraqi Republican Guard positions and are moving quickly toward Baghdad. They said that unless there is unexpected Iraqi resistance the first U.S. forces will arrive on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital later on Sunday.

On Sunday, U.S. fighter-jets and bombers launched one of the heaviest attacks on Baghdad. Scores of explosions were heard throughout the city.

Officials said the U.S. forces closest to Baghdad include units from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division. Helicopter units from the division have targeted Republican Guard positions near the Iraqi capital.

"In 36 hours, we're on the outskirts of Baghdad," Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, on Friday afternoon. Myers did not elaborate. But officials said Central Command will take several days to reinforce U.S. forces around the city as allied fighter-jets and heavy bombers attack Baghdad.

The Defense Department is also expected to order the deployment of new forces from the United States to bolster the 100,000 troops in Iraq. The 2nd Light Armored Cavalry Regiment, with both infantry fighting vehicles as well as aviation assets, has been placed on alert and officials said the Pentagon is discussing the prospect that part of the force would be ordered to begin early deployment in Iraq. The regiment is based in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

"Within just a few short days, coalition troops have moved more than 200 miles through Iraq and are now close to Baghdad," Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said on Saturday. "Coalition forces in the region are growing more dominant on ground and in the air. And as part of the previously-planned force flow, more coalition personnel move in every day."

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