ABCNEWS journalists "embedded" with U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf report on the latest preparations for war with Iraq.
[The troops] have been breaking down camp. They have been packing up … They have been moving all of their massive armor, the Bradley fighting vehicles, the MI-8 tanks. They have 350 fuel tankers, each of which pulls 5,000 gallons of fuel. I will help you with the math right away: 1,750,000 gallons, which is going to be fueling some 10,000 vehicles and 20,000 men as they try to fight their way from here to Baghdad.
What's happening with this entire division is that it's been re-deployed to within a very few miles of the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border … There is a no man's zone that has been occupied by the United Nations for the last few years. The U.N. forces have now pulled out of there, and very shortly the U.S. forces will be moving in. That, more than anything else, is to set the Kuwaitis' minds at ease. They need to be protected.
And then after the air war begins — and when we're talking about air war we are talking about cruise missiles, about B-1 bombers, and then softening up by artillery and the Apache Longbow helicopters — After all of that has happened in a time frame that I can't exactly tell you about just yet, but not too long after that begins, the ground invasion will begin.
The commanders' expectation is that for the first eight hours of moving into Iraq they are not going to meet a whole lot of resistance, then they are going to be approaching the first city. Again, I can't tell you what the target is, where they will be confronting a regular Iraqi army division, they don't really expect to get too much of a fight out of them. Indeed, the intelligence reports they are getting is the desertion rates are already up to about 30 percent and there is some reason to believe that that particular division may surrender before the first shot is even fired.
Then it starts to get really tough, because then they start to make their way up to Baghdad. And in and around Baghdad, of course, you have the Republican Guard divisions. They are not likely to give up quite as easily and that's where the fight, if there is going to be one, will take place.
The commander of the 5th Fleet, Vice Adm.Timothy Keating, visited the USS Abraham Lincoln today, telling some of his top commanders and the crew to get ready for war.
"We expended every measure, every measure to solve this peacefully," he said. "Now we are prepared to expend every measure, every measure to win the war. And that's where you come in."
Keating said the United States is about to hit Iraq with a force that will more than make up for any loss of the element of surprise.
"Remarkable speed, breathtaking speed, agility, precision and persistence," he said. "If we go, the plans that we have are unlike anything anyone has ever seen before."
In one sense, the opening salvos of war have already been fired. Hours before President Bush's speech to the nation Monday, planes flying missions over Iraq started carrying powerful 2,000-pound bombs. Some of them are now returning without their payloads.
From his command post here, Adm. John Kelly said today Iraq has been spotted moving around its surface-to-air missiles and military aircraft — an apparent effort to protect them from airstrikes.