Coalition Destroying Regime Forces

By Jim Garamone, AFPS

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2003 – One Iraqi Republican Guard division is destroyed and others are severely degraded, said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks during a briefing in Qatar today.

There is heavy fighting around Al Kut and Karbala, he said.

"We will approach Baghdad," Brooks said. "The dagger is clearly pointed at the heart of the regime and will remain pointed at it until the regime is gone."

Brooks, the deputy operations chief for U.S. Central Command, reported that the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the Army’s 5th Corps started an attack to destroy Republican Guard forces defending the outskirts of Baghdad.

The Marines attacked the Baghdad division near the town of Al Kut and have crossed the Tigris River. "The Baghdad division has been destroyed," Brooks said.

Fifth Corps attacked around Karbala and hit formations of the Medina division and the Nebukadnezar division. Fifth Corps units also attacked Iraqi forces near Najaf.

"The attacking unit was welcomed by thousands of citizens," Brooks said. "It was also welcomed by regime forces that positioned themselves inside the Ali Mosque – one of the most important religious shrines to Shi’ia Islam."

He did not go into too much detail about the status of the rest of the Iraqi Republican Guard.

"We’re in contact with them right now," Brooks noted. "The situation continues to develop. It’s premature for me to characterize the current condition of the other divisions, other than to say they are in serious trouble, as they’re in contact right now with the most powerful force on Earth."

Along with the land component, Iraqi forces had to face attacks from coalition air forces. Defense officials said air forces flew more than 1,900 sorties on April 1. More than 800 were strike sorties with the vast majority targeted at the Medina, Hammurabi and Baghdad Republican Guard divisions.

The coalition has achieved complete air dominance over "every square inch" of Iraq, said defense officials.

There were more than 400 tankers sorties and around 250 airlift missions April 1. Coalition command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew just under 150 sorties. Overall, just over 70 percent of the coalition munitions are precision-guided.

Brooks also gave a preliminary read-out on the March 26 market incident where Iraqi officials claimed coalition bombs went astray and killed a number of civilians. He said after examining all aspects of the incident, the coalition had "no jets, missiles, bombs or anything else" in the area when the explosion occurred.

Coalition special operations forces have seized a dam that could potentially have flooded the Euphrates River toward Karbala, Brooks said. There were heavy regime losses around the dam.

Local Iraqis’ cooperation with coalition forces increases each day, Brooks said. Locals are helping target regime death squads and military units. .

Coalition forces currently hold more than 4,500 enemy prisoners of war and all are being treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. The International Red Cross has met with the prisoners at the POW camp near Umm Qasr, and engineers are building another facility in Iraq.