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Iraq Campaign to Get Tougher Approaching Baghdad

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2003 – U.S. and coalition forces have made great gains so far during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the going will likely get harder in coming days.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered that message today on the Fox News Sunday television show.

"Anybody who thinks this (war) is going to be quick and easy is wrong," Myers asserted, noting U.S. and coalition service members have given their lives so far in the campaign.

"This is not going to be an easy fight, and I think we've got to steel ourselves for that," he added.

The four-star general and his civilian boss, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, discussed the war in Iraq on several Sunday news programs.

Myers opined that some people might become too optimistic due to early U.S. and coalition forces' military gains.

The fighting "is going to be tougher as we get closer and closer to Baghdad," the general predicted. U.S. and coalition troops have penetrated more than 150 miles into Iraq since departing Kuwait.

"The amount of mileage we've driven inside Iraq has been quite amazing, frankly," Myers said, noting that military goals have been met so far, according to planned timelines.

U.S. and coalition forces have indeed made good progress in Iraq, Rumsfeld observed on Face the Nation.

Key oil fields in the south have been secured for the Iraqi people, he pointed out, and coalition troops hold the port of Umm Qasr.

The campaign in Iraq is "going well, but it's tough," the secretary remarked.

"Wars are unpredictable," Rumsfeld said. "It's very difficult to know how long it will take," he emphasized, to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

Although the Army's 3rd Infantry Division continues its advance toward Baghdad, Iraqi troops have recently put up stiff resistance against U.S. Marines near An Nasiriyah.

And U.S. and coalition forces are involved in mopping up operations against pockets of Iraqi troops near Umm Qasr.

The secretary added that U.S. and coalition aircraft control the majority of Iraqi airspace, maritime forces are preventing Iraqis from mining seaways, and land forces continue to move toward Baghdad.

The pace of military operations in Iraq has indeed been rapid, Rumsfeld pointed out.

"And the component commanders have done a very good job," he concluded.

ENDS


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