Coalition Continues Fight in Baghdad, Northern Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 10, 2003 The deaths of two American service members since Iraqis toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad yesterday emphasized that combat in Iraq is not over.
"The enemy is surrendering and scattering, but not everyone, and not yet," Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said during a press conference today.
Special Republican Guard units and death squads still pose a threat to coalition forces, added Army Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a Joint Staff spokesman.
"There are still coalition forces facing organized resistance in the north near Tikrit and Mosul," he said. "We've already begun removing remaining pockets of resistance in the north. Specifically, earlier today, elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade entered the town of Kirkuk meeting minimal resistance."
The general said the situation in Kirkuk, which is also the gateway to the Iraqi northern oil fields, is fluid. He said Kurdish forces entered Kirkuk, accompanied by U.S. Special Forces advisers. The 173rd soldiers followed them, he said.
Coalition air forces continued to strike enemy equipment around Tikrit. McChrystal said that there are 10 Iraqi regular army divisions in the north. "They have been viewed (to be) on the low end of the spectrum of the Iraqi army," he said. "They have not been viewed as combat ready."
He said coalition air and special operations forces have been targeting these divisions aggressively. "We judge their capability to have dropped significantly, both from casualties and also from people just leaving the battlefield."
U.S. troops continue to flow into the area. McChrystal said the coalition has begun to fly in armored vehicles to reinforce the 173rd Airborne. In addition, the 4th Infantry Division will start moving into Iraq in the next few days, McChrystal said.
The general said U.S. officials are concerned about the fates of Americans taken prisoner by Iraqi forces. "We do not have intelligence I can share with you, but we are working very hard to get that," he said.
"We believe that now that we are in (Baghdad) and among the population and essentially regime control has gone, that the opportunity to get information about our prisoners goes way up."