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Last Updated:  Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Analysis: US military deny pause
The BBC's defence correspondent, Jonathan Marcus
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC defence correspondent at Central Command headquarters

US spokesmen at the Central Command headquarters in Qatar have emphatically denied reports that there is a pause in US operations on the battlefield.

But on the ground, it appears as though the full-scale advance of US forces has largely halted as they rearm, resupply and prepare to attack the Republican Guard divisions south of Baghdad.

A helicopter ferrying supplies flies over the Iraqi desert

So what actually is going on?

The fog of semantic confusion has surrounded just what is going on on the battlefield south-east of Baghdad.

At a briefing here, the US spokesman, Major General Victor Renuart, has insisted there is no pause; a whole range of offensive operations, he said, were continuing.

But only a few days ago, the US commander on the ground in Iraq, General William Wallace, did indeed talk of taking a pause, as he put it, to pull up the long lines of logistics.

Reorganisation

What is happening is entirely to be expected.

US mechanised units have made dramatic progress in their advance.

They are largely where they wanted to be - within striking range of the three Republican Guard divisions defending Baghdad.

But before they can join battle, they need to reorganise, feel out the defenders and ensure that their supply columns can safely move up the long and dangerous road back southwards towards Kuwait.

A pause in the overall advance does not though mean a pause in the fighting.

There has been an attack for example by part of the US 101st Airborne Division on the Medina division of the Republican Guard just north of Kabala.

The Americans are claiming success, with some 25 Iraqi tanks or armoured vehicles destroyed.

More air strikes

This was the first major engagement involving the 101st Airborne since this largely helicopter borne force moved into Iraq.

Over the coming days we can expect continuing air attacks on the Republican Guard - deep probing movements by mobile forces, artillery barrages and long-range patrols.

The aim is to fix the positions of Iraqi units and to do as much damage to them as possible before the main US offensive begins.

But the Americans are continuing to have serious problems all along their lines of communication and it is clear that US commanders underestimated the intensity of the resistance that these irregular Iraqi formations would offer.


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