More USS Battle Groups Heading Home
By Jim Garamone,
Abraham Lincoln (US Navy Photo)
April 14, 2003 – The USS Abraham Lincoln started it’s journey
home to Everett, Washington last week after the San Diego-based
1,100-foot, nuclear-powered Nimitz carrier relieved the Lincoln
of duty in Iraqi Freedom.
It will be
the first homecoming for a large unit involved in the war in Operation
Iraq Freedom. The Lincoln and its seven-ship battle group have
been at sea nearly nine months, longer than any U.S. carrier group
now on duty.
As the war in Iraq winds down, the shape and number
of coalition forces in the area will change, DoD officials said
during a briefing in the Pentagon.
Two carrier battle groups centered around the
USS Constellation and Kitty Hawk will leave the area, Navy officials
said today. This still leaves three carrier battle groups in the
region: the USS Nimitz, Harry S. Truman and Theodore Roosevelt.
In addition, coalition commander Army Gen. Tommy
Franks is looking at ground-based air assets, now that the need
for strike aircraft has diminished, said Army Maj. Gen. Stanley
McChrystal, vice chief of operations on the Joint Staff.
McChrystal said that while land combat power is
needed in Iraq, over time the mix of land forces will change.
He said that as more and more of the country becomes stable, more
military civil affairs specialists, engineers and military police
will be needed.
But for now, coalition forces are still rooting
out the remnants of the regime, most notably in Saddam Hussein’s
hometown of Tikrit. "The regime is at its end and its leaders
are either dead, surrendered or on the run," said Pentagon
spokeswoman Torie Clarke.
She said the war has been costly. Since the conflict
began 118 American service members have died in the liberation
of Iraq. "War is also hazardous for journalists, as we know,"
"At great personal risk many of them have
reported the conflict firsthand. We salute these professionals
and offer our condolences to their families."
A total of 10 reporters have died covering the
conflict: Tareq Ayyoub, Al-Jazeera; David Bloom, NBC; José
Couso, Telecinco; Kaveh Golestan, a free-lancer; Michael Kelly,
Atlantic Monthly and Washington Post; Christian Liebig, Focus;
Terry Lloyd, ITV News; Paul Moran, free-lancer; Julio Anguita
Parrado, El Mundo; and Taras Protsyuk, Reuters.
Clarke also gave a report on progress in the eight
objectives set for the war. The first was to eliminate the regime
of Saddam Hussein. Most of the country is now free of the regime’s
The second objective was to capture, kill or drive
out terrorists and terrorist organizations sheltering in Iraq.
Clarke said with the fall of Saddam, terrorists lost their largest
The third objective was to collect intelligence
on terrorist networks. She said that as stability returns, Iraqis
are coming to the coalition with information on these groups.
Military intelligence personnel are also sorting through captured
papers for information.
Fourth and fifth are to collect intelligence on
weapons of mass destruction and to oversee their destruction.
"We’ve begun the long process of exploring sites, sifting
through documents and encouraging Iraqis to come forward with
information," Clarke said.
Sixth is to secure Iraqi oil fields. Coalition
forces secured the Southern oil fields soon after entering the
country on March 19, and coalition special operations forces,
supported by conventional forces, secured the northern oil fields
around Tikrit last week.
The seventh goal is to end the U.N. sanctions
against Iraq and begin sending humanitarian aid to the country.
Clarke said President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
have asked the United Nations to rescind the sanctions imposed
following the 1991 Gulf War. Clarke said aid from any number of
countries is beginning to flow into Iraq.
Finally, the eighth goal was to help the Iraqi
people establish a representative government that does not threaten
its neighbors. "We are working with clerics, tribal leaders
and ordinary Iraqis," she said. "Many will meet tomorrow
in An Nasiriyah to discuss the future of Iraq and the Iraqi interim