Strikes Damaged More than Expected, Shelton Says
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 1999 U.S. strikes against Iraqi military targets last month during Operation Desert Fox did more damage than defense officials first thought.
Pentagon officials initially determined the raids had produced substantial damage. Since the air campaign ended Dec. 19, Army Gen. Hugh Shelton said, the military has received more data, much of it unconfirmed, from a variety of sources that improves the initial assessment.
"The regime apparently was surprised both in the timing of the attack and in the size and intensity," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Jan. 5 during readiness hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "They lost the initiative, which we feel they are attempting to regain right now, both on the diplomatic front as well as in their violations of the no- fly zone."
Operation Desert Fox involved more than 30,000 U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf and 10,000 more from outside Central Command. Air forces flew more than 600 sorties Dec. 16 to 19 during the air campaign. More than 40 ships performed strike and support roles, with 10 launching more than 300 cruise missiles. Central Command officials said the strikes hit 64 out of 66 targets with 85 percent effectiveness.
Shelton said the strikes have delayed Iraq's ballistic missile program by one to two years. Critical production components have been destroyed, he said. Noting other successes, the general said some key command and control facilities were hit, and "highly visible symbols of the regime were destroyed."
Estimates of casualties in special Republican Guard security units that guard suspected weapons of mass destruction programs now hover at 600, Shelton said. "Five of the Republican Guard headquarters were damaged. There are unconfirmed reports of up to 800 casualties among the Republican Guard units themselves."
A large surface-to-air missile facility was destroyed and will take years to rebuild, he said. "That will impact on [Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's] air defense sustainability because that's where he repaired all of his missiles and radars."
The strikes also knocked out an oil refinery that supplies about 30 percent of Hussein's illegal oil exports, Shelton said.
Defense officials believe collateral damage was kept to a minimum. "We all know the Iraqis like to exaggerate and falsify the collateral damage," Shelton said. "They have not shown any significant collateral damage at this point. There have been very few reports of civilian casualties and none that have been demonstrated by the Iraqis."