US to send another 120,000 troops to Iraq
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US to send another 120,000 troops to Iraq

The US announced this even as its senior ground commander said that the stiff Iraqi resistance is slowing the coalition's progress.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2003 18:07 IST

With the likelihood of a longer war in Iraq than anticipated, the US on Friday announced sending 120,000 more troops to boost its forces even as its senior ground commander admitted that the stiff Iraqi resistance is slowing the progress of the invading forces.

The US, which has already 90,000 ground troops in Iraq since the start of the invasion on March 20, is sending another 1,20,000 troops to the region, a Pentagon official said in Washington as two huge 'bunker buster' bombs blasted Iraq's communication centre in Baghdad and fighting raged in strategic towns in the south.

Among the units with orders to deploy to the region is the 1st Armoured Division in Germany, the 1st Cavalry Division in Texas, and the 2nd and 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiments in Louisiana and Colorado, the official said.

The US Army Senior Ground Commander in Iraq, Gen William Wallace, said tougher-than-expected Iraqi forces have stalled the US drive towards Baghdad.

Long supply lines and Iraqi guerrilla-style tactics have reduced the chances the swift military planners had hoped for, he said.

"The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against," Wallace told The Washington Post at the Forward Operating Base Shell, in Iraq.

US forces moving through southern Iraq have encountered much stiffer resistance than expected from lightly armed Iraqi irregulars who have attacked supply convoys and even armoured columns.

Iraq has warned that US-led troops will have to fight their way into Baghdad street-by-street.

"The enemy must come inside Baghdad and that will be its grave," said Iraqi Defence Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmed.

US President George W Bush has said the coalition will fight for "however long it takes" to remove President Saddam Hussein from power.

Echoing similar views, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met Bush yesterday, told the BBC that the war to topple the Iraqi leader would take time and have its "tough and difficult" moments.

Continuing its air strikes, the US B-52 stealth bomber dropped two 4,700-pound satellite-guided bunker busted bombs on Iraqi communication centre al-Maamun, next to the destroyed al-Salam palace in Baghdad.

However, the Iraqi resistance continued to slow the invading forces' drive towards the capital and other key cities like Basra and Nasiriyah.

In the latest reports from Basra, British troops positioned to the south and west of the city say they are have opened fire on the local Iraqi militia, who were allegedly shooting at between 1,000 and 2,000 people trying to escape.

UK tanks also destroyed 14 Iraqi tanks and a number of armoured vehicles attempting to break out of Basra.

US troops and members of Iraq's Fedayeen militia units fought a major battle in the central town of Samawah, the site of a crucial bridge on the way to Baghdad.

At least 10 explosions were heard in Nasiriyah and an Iraqi command post was destroyed, reports reaching here said.

US Marines in Nasiriyah say they have captured an Iraqi army general, who was picked up at his home.

US cargo planes delivered military supplies and 200 more troops to northern Iraq, a day after hundreds of US troops parachuted into the area.

Also in northern Iraq, Kurdish militiamen crossed the frontline into Iraqi government-controlled territory, gaining control of a hilltop position guarding the advance to the city of Kirkuk.

First Published: Mar 28, 2003 16:08 IST