DoD Spokesman Says Engaging Iraq Still Ongoing Operation
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2001 The American public should not consider the bombings in Iraq Feb. 16 as the end of U.S. involvement in the area.
"Because this is an ongoing operation, we expect to keep it going until the national leadership changes the policy of this country," Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said in a Feb. 20 Pentagon briefing.
American and British aircraft attacked Iraqi radars and command, control and communication nodes outside Bagdad Feb. 16 to "degrade and disrupt the Iraqi air defense system," Quigley said.
U.S. officials haven't released any battle-damage assessments, and Quigley said such assessments rely on "imperfect" information. "Battle damage assessment is never a perfect process. You try the best you can to gather information from a variety of sources," he said. "But from what we know so far, we feel we had an impact in the overall goal of disrupting and degrading the Iraqi air defense system in the south."
Quigley noted U.S. and coalition forces have been engaging Iraqi air defense sites since the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and the Iraqis have always been able to regenerate their capabilities after such strikes.
"They have a very good internal capability to repair a variety of military systems, and that would include radars," he said.
"We didn't expect our strikes on Friday to be the end of Iraqi air defense engaging coalition aircraft," Quigley said.
Proving Quigley's point, Iraq fired missiles and air defense artillery at U.S planes in the Southern No-Fly Zone over the weekend. No U.S. planes were hit, and the United States didn't immediately retaliate.
But, Quigley said, people shouldn't read too much into that. "We reserve the right to respond at a place and time and manner of our choosing," he said. "As we have done on many occasions over the years in the southern and northern no-fly zones, if we see systems that are in place that will improve or somehow increase the ability of the Iraqi air defense system to threaten our air crews and aircraft, we reserve the right to take action to strike those targets to lessen the ability to do just that."