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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Key points from army briefings

BY Paul Adams
BBC Defence correspondent, Doha

Our correspondent sifts through the latest daily briefings by the United States Central Command in Qatar:

Republican Guard Defences:

  • Severely depleted, following air attacks and artillery barrages. Officials will not say how depleted, but Medina Division now possibly as much as 50% below strength.

  • More and more probing and skirmishing by US 3rd Infantry Division, 101st Airborne and 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

  • For the first time, officials suggest privately that the main ground assault on the Republican Guard is "not far away".

  • Elements of the Nebuchadnezzar Division, normally based around Tikrit, have been identified among the units defending the southern approaches to Baghdad.

    At Centcom, this is put down to the fact that the RG divisions south of Baghdad are badly in need of reinforcements, following sustained air and artillery attacks over the past week.

A Special Forces operation gone wrong?

  • Al-Jazeera TV has shown pictures which appear to show captured British equipment and ammunition being paraded in the northern city of Mosul, following what is described as a "landing operation" to the west.

    British officials at Centcom say they can "neither confirm nor deny" the reports, leading observers to speculate that this is likely to have been a special forces operation that went wrong.

Berets not Helmets

  • British unit commanders are being given the authority to tell their men to switch helmets for berets.

    It has been happening for some days in Umm Qasr but is now happening in Al-Zubayr, Safwan and Rumailah. An attempt to show a less aggressive, more approachable posture to the local population.

Why has the south not risen up?

  • "They're rising up, although slower than we'd hoped," says a senior US official at Centcom. Basra and Nasiriya, he says "are close to the tipping point".

  • Officials here believe that paramilitary organisations and Ba'ath party members fiercely loyal to Saddam Hussein still have urban populations in their thrall.

    People are simply too afraid to rise up and need more reassurance that it's safe to do so.

    Officials recognise that having been let down by the West in 1991, there is great reluctance to rise up again and face possible revenge from Saddam Hussein's forces.

"Unlawful Combatants"

  • The Pentagon has so far denied reports that it plans to send captives to Guantanamo Bay, where Afghan detainees are being held.

    But both the Americans and the British are now detaining men at checkpoints and taking them away for questioning (television pictures have shown people being led away with hoods over their heads).

  • The British commander at Centcom's Qatar base, Air Marshall Brian Burridge, says he is comfortable with the legal basis for this, but the longer the conflict continues and the more prisoners are taken, the more this may become an issue of controversy.

    Just what status will these people enjoy, if they are not regarded by the US-led coalition as POWs?

How effective are psychological operations?

  • A senior American official at Centcom has acknowledged that the blanket leafleting of Iraq has not always been "as sophisticated as we might want it to be".

    He puts this down to a failure to understand fully the cultural and political realities of Iraq, a totalitarian state in which people "have no ability to shape their own opinions" and may thus respond to the current conflict by stiffening their resolve to fight for the regime.




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