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Sunday, 2 February, 2003, 19:15 GMT
US 'war plans' for Iraq
More than 250,000 US military personnel could be deployed to the Gulf region.
More than 250,000 US personnel could be deployed
The BBC's Steve Schifferes

As US and UK forces continue to build up in the Gulf for a possible attack on Iraq, press reports are suggesting that the US will wage a radically different style of war than the campaign in 1991.

According to the New York Times newspaper, the Pentagon's war plan for Iraq will include a hard-hitting, but short precision bombing phase to disrupt the Iraqi military, followed by a combination of aerial assaults and ground attacks both from Kuwait and Turkey.

The US Government has been involved in sensitive talks with Turkey about allowing an invasion force, and US officials have apparently made it clear that while they abide by Turkey's strict limits of 20,000 US troops there at any one time, they intend to rapidly move large numbers of troops through the country.

The challenge will be in this air campaign to achieve certain military and psychological effects, but have as much of the infrastructure existing when its over

Ronald Fogleman, Defense Policy Board
The northern invasion force is expected to be spearheaded by the 4th Infantry division, while the Marine Expeditionary Force, the US 3rd division, and the UK forces will move north from Kuwait.

But the US is also prepared to use its airborne forces, including elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, to strike deep within Iraq, seizing airfields and oil wells and preventing Saddam Hussein from using chemical and biological weapons.

This strategy of "vertical envelopment" would involve the ferrying of heavy equipment to airfields within the country to link up with the troops on the ground.

The report quotes one senior Pentagon official as saying "this is not going to be your father's Gulf War."

Testing it out

The US will be relying heavily on its precision-guided weapons, which will make up 75% of the armaments of its planes, compared to just 9% in 1991.

And, the report suggests, the military believes that with the new weapons, it will only take perhaps a few days or a week to disrupt the Iraqi military and pave the way for the ground invasion.

Special operations forces would also infiltrate Iraq early in the campaign to destroy missile sites and weapons of mass destruction.

US marines
Marines are expected to play a key role in any war

The aim is to "prevent Saddam from doing things," according to another official quoted in the report.

Given that the US wants to occupy and rebuild Iraq after a war, "the challenge will be in this air campaign to achieve certain military and psychological effects, but have as much of the infrastructure existing when its over," said Ronald Fogleman, a former Air Force chief of staff who is a member of the Defense Policy Board.

As in Kosovo, that could involve shutting down but not destroying city services like water and electricity, possibly through the use of high-powered microwave weapons to disrupt computers.

This week in Germany, the US Army will conclude a week-long military exercise simulating the war in Iraq, which is expected to test the new plan.

If the reports are correct, the plans suggest that the US military is planning a short, sharp campaign which could start before the build-up of troops is complete.

But officials have also made it clear that, with US night-fighting capability, war could be carried on through the spring and summer.


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24 Jan 03 | Middle East
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