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US waiting to tighten the noose on Baghdad

The US top military commander said that US forces would "tighten the noose" on Baghdad and not hurry to confront Saddam's army defending the Iraqi capital.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2003 22:52 IST

The United States top military commander said on Sunday that US forces would "tighten the noose" on Baghdad and not hurry to confront Saddam Hussein's army defending the Iraqi capital.

And in the face of criticism of US war tactics and the start of battlefield suicide attacks, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted military strategists had planned for a "catastrophic success" or "a really long fight".

"Nobody ever promised a short war," Myers told NBC television.

And the Air Force general warned that greater risks lie ahead for British forces and US seeking to oust the Iraqi leader.

"I think the toughest part is ahead of us as we take on the Republic Guard around Baghdad."

But as the Iraqi president's fighters show resilience that has surprised many experts, Myers indicated that the United States would not rush into a Battle of Baghdad.

"We have the power to be patient in this we are not going to hurry," he said. "We will be patient and continue to draw the noose tighter and tighter."

The general said that about 50 per cent of US air attacks were devoted to the Revolutionary Guard positions around Baghdad on Saturday.

Asked whether US forces would attempt to siege the Iraqi capital, Myers said "it will not be a siege that people have thought about before" and cautiously added that there were "several contingencies".

"We are prepared for that, we think we know how we are going to handle the situation."

Myers was questioned strongly about the tactics used so far and why a much smaller force had been sent to the Gulf this time than for the 1991 war to force Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

He insisted that the chiefs of staff and President George W. Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have "washed this plan through many iterations."

Planners "had to be prepared for a catastrophic success and on the other hand was really hard fight."

"We did not predict it was going to be easy we did not predict it would be tough. We thought it would be uneven. The fact is that several things have gone very well."

He said there had been no humanitarian disaster yet, oil fires were under control and the Kurdish forces in northern Iraq had not been a major problem.

"Everybody agreed that the plan is the right plan, the forces are the appropriate number."

Myers said that General Tommy Franks, the Central Command chief in charge of the war, was never denied forces. "He got exactly what he wanted."

"There are no new requests for forces, we think we have the forces to do the job."

Asked about the suicide attack which the United States said killed four American troops, Myers said this was a "desperation tactic" by the Iraqi leadership and that none of the Iraqi tactics had had a significant impact.

Myers also said there were still doubts about the fate of the Iraqi leader.

"They are in some sort of shock, we have not seen him," declared the general, insisting that television appearances since the opening bombing raids on Saddam's compound had all been recorded.

"There are a lot of rumours in Baghdad about where he is, where his wife is, where his sons are."

First Published: Mar 30, 2003 22:52 IST