Thursday, December 17, 1998 Published at 00:42 GMT
'Sharp increase' in US troops in Gulf
Possible military targets in Iraq
The US Defence Secretary William Cohen has announced that more air and ground forces are being sent to the Gulf amid ongoing air strikes against Iraq.
"Iraq should not misunderstand our determination," Mr Cohen said.
Mr Cohen said a second carrier battle group led by the USS Carl Vinson is on its way to the region. Additional ground troops are going to Kuwait.
An air force expeditionary wing made up of over 30 assorted aircraft is also being despatched to the Gulf.
Mr Cohen said there have been no American casualties so far. US officials cannot calculate Iraqi casualties, he said.
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton said he was unable to reveal the targets of the military operation at this stage.
Earlier a Pentagon official said the strikes were expected to target Iraq's elite Special Republican Guards, air defences, command and control system and facilities associated with weapons of mass destruction programs and the means to deliver them.
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was in the northern Indian Ocean on Tuesday and is scheduled to arrive in the Gulf by December 18, joining the carrier USS Enterprise.
Its arrival will roughly double the number of carrier-based combat aircraft available for an attack to about 100.
The carriers carry F/A-18 Hornets, F-14 Tomcats and EA-6B electronic warfare jets.
Formidable fire power
The BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says that the United States already has a formidable array of fire power in the Gulf.
Because the Americans had planned a pre-Christmas changeover of their forces, those available at the moment are effectively doubled.
He added there is no doubt the United States can administer a very damaging blow to Iraq's military infrastructure, although inevitably, this would lead to significant Iraqi casualties.
A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday there were 24,100 US troops in the Gulf, 201 military aircraft and 22 naval ships, including eight warships capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Before the bombing began, US forces in the region include:
Britain is giving the US the most military support. The UK has 12 tornado aircraft in Kuwait, six Jaguar bombers in Turkey, which could be used in bombing raids.
Britain has also deployed ships and military personnel in the Persian Gulf.
Iraq's military strength
It is thought that by the end of the Gulf conflict only a quarter of the Iraqi army's pre-war strength remained.
But it has since been rebuilding its forces and troop strength is now thought to be about 400,000.
Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the United Nations has tried to uncover the true extent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and its stock of long-range missiles.
Iraq is known to have produced chemical weapons like mustard gas and a deadly nerve gas called VX.
In August 1988, Iraqi forces used both chemical and gas munitions against Kurdish civilians in the area around Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan.