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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL REPORT

Iraq Journals

Glimpses of life in a war-torn country by GNS national security correspondent John Yaukey and photo director Jeff Franko.

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Recall key dates, browse defining photos from six weeks of combat in Iraq. (Requires Flash)

 

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Take an interactive tour of Saddam's hide-out and capture at USATODAY.com's Iraq home page.

 

GNS Archive

Click here to browse more than 1,000 Iraq war news stories from the front lines and the home front.

 

 

Wednesday, March 19

U.S. forces tasked with critical early missions in Iraq

By John Yaukey

WASHINGTON - The nearly 300,000 American and British forces assigned to take Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein have a clearly outlined set of initial objectives that will largely determine their success.

Unlike almost any other war Americans have fought, the strategy in Iraq is to spare lives and pre-serve enemy infrastructure so Iraq can be rebuilt quickly once the fighting ends.

‘’This will be nothing like the (Persian) gulf war,’’ said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ‘’It will be much more intense.’’

The 1991 Persian Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign before ground forces mobilized. This time, war planners say, the ground offensive could begin either concurrently with the air campaign or as soon as 48 hours afterward.

The plan, called ‘’shock and awe,’’ is designed to break the Iraqi fighting spirit almost immediately with massive lightning air and ground strikes coming in from north and south of Baghdad.

More than a year in the making, this strategy is intended to minimize casualties and maximize co-operation from Iraqis so coalition forces can secure Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction before he can use them, and protect Iraq’s vast oil fields before they can be destroyed.

Working together, the air and ground forces will quickly seek to:

Destroy communications between Saddam and his troops.

War planners want to take away Saddam’s capacity to deliver orders and receive intelligence from his forces within the first hours of the attack, so some of the initial sorties will be aimed at destroying command and control facilities.

The hope is that by isolating Saddam, Iraqi soldiers will be more likely to surrender rather than fight for what could be an already toppled regime.

Aircraft have already been dropping leaflets warning Iraq’s 350,000 soldiers to surrender and live or fight and die.

Secure Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

U.S.-led forces need to ensure that Saddam is not able to use his biological or chemical weapons against them or pass them on to terrorists as a final act of revenge.

‘’Saddam himself has relatively few realistic military alternatives against U.S. forces,’’ said Daniel Byman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University. ‘’So terrorism by default becomes much more attractive.’’

American-led forces in a war with Iraq will be counting on help from Iraqi defectors - in addition to intelligence - to find Saddam’s hidden weapons of mass destruction.

Despite claims by the Bush administration that there is no doubt Saddam is hoarding chemical and biological weapons, U.S. forces are unsure of where to look for much of the banned arsenal, yet un-der the gun to nullify it quickly.

Get Saddam and his sons.

The Bush administration took considerable heat for allowing Osama bin Laden to escape from Af-ghanistan. It does not plan to let that happen in Iraq. Special operations forces will be assigned ex-clusively to find Saddam and his sons Odai, Iraq’s top propagandist, and Qusai, who commands the elite Republican Guard.

But finding Saddam will not be easy.

He is believed to have constructed an elaborate network of tunnels beneath his more than one dozen heavily fortified palaces.

Saddam is expected to secure himself inside Baghdad where he can protect himself with civilian shields and force American troops to engage in bloody street-to-street combat.

Secure oil wells in the north and south.

When Saddam’s forces retreated from Kuwait in 1991, they lit the small nation’s oil fields ablaze, creating an environmental catastrophe.

According to intelligence reports, Saddam has wired as many as 1,500 of his own oil wells, primarily in southeastern and northern Iraq, for destruction as part of a scorched-earth strategy.

Blowing up that many oil wells could pollute the air and foul the drinking water for Baghdad, home to more than 5 million Iraqis.

British marines have been assigned to secure the oil fields in the south while airdropped American Army forces will take the fields in the north around the city of Kirkuk.

Keeping Iraq’s oil fields viable will be crucial in helping the nation rebuild, stabilize and re-establish effective government.

‘’The faster the necessary reconstruction tasks are accomplished, the sooner the coalition will be able to withdraw its forces and the sooner Iraqis will assume compete control of their country,’’ said Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense.

Provide aid to the Iraqi people.

Stabilizing the population will be crucial to ensuring that the occupation appears as an humanitarian effort, but the confusion and devastation that follows combat is often when most civilians die in wartime.

According to humanitarian aid agencies, at least 16 million Iraqis - 60 percent of the population - rely solely on food distributed through the government. A war will initially collapse that network.

Some 10 million Iraqis - 5.2 million of them children - will need immediate food aid once a war begins.

War could create as many as 1.5 million refugees, adding to the already 1 million Iraqis without homes.

Army and Marine ground units have been ordered to provide Iraqi civilians with food and water and to treat them with great care. They also are to show respect to surrendering Iraqi soldiers.