Iraqis crippled; Bush imposes ceasefire

Posted By DENHOLM BARNETSON   |   February 27, 1991
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 27, 1991 (UPI) - With the Iraqi military crippled, most of its tanks and divisions destroyed and at least 50,000 troops captured following a bold and brilliantly executed allied ground assault, President Bush ordered Wednesday a halt to the offensive, saying: ''Our military objectives are met.''

U.S. forces, fighting side-by-side with those from Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, completed the liberation of Kuwait and defeated the an Iraqi army that entered the Persian Gulf war as the fourth largest in the world, Bush said.

The allied forces surrounded the elite Iraqi Republican Guard units and set up ''a solid wall'' of military might reaching across most of southern Iraq, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of Operation Desert Storm, said during an hour-long briefing in the Saudi capital. Schwarzkopf said U.S. forces penetrated deep into Iraq and, if they had wanted, could have seized the capital of Baghdad ''unopposed, for all intents and purposes.''

''We've almost completely destroyed the offensive capability of the Iraqi forces in the Kuwaiti theater of operations,'' Schwarzkopf said.

Kuwait had been occupied since an Aug. 2 invasion. The Wednesday midnight EST ceasefire came just 100 hours after the start of the massive ground attack and six weeks after the beginning of the war.

Schwarzkopf said that allied forces had ''rendered inoperable'' 29 of Iraq's 42 military divisions. The allies later beat back the Iraqis in final battles with two Republican Guard units in Iraq.

The remaining 11 divisions did not pose an imminent threat to allied forces, Pentagon officials said, though they suggested that a limited number of units could still fight. Many of the divisions have been weakened by having dispersed, retreated or surrendered, these officials added.

The swiftly moving developments came after allied forces gained control of Kuwait City, prompting the U.S. State Department to announce that it would reopen its embassy in Kuwait within the next few days.

Having declared, ''Our military objectives are met,'' Bush said, ''This suspension of offensive combat operations is contingent upon Iraq's not firing upon any coalition forces and not launching Scud missiles against any other country. If Iraq violates these terms, coalition forces will be free to resume military operations.''

A Pentagon spokesman said U.S. and allied troops will remain in position on the battlefield in Iraq and Kuwait until the details of a permanent ceasefire have been completed.

Schwarzkopf presented a glowing assessment of allied accomplishments, saying the ground war had been an unparalleled success.

Allied forces, he said, had confirmed destroying 3,008 of Iraq's 4, 230 tanks but believed the number to be closer to 3,700 as a result of ongoing fighting with two Republican Guard divisions.

The allies have also confirmed destroying 1,856 of Iraq's 2,870 armored personnel carriers and 2,140 of its 3,110 artillery, he said.

In what may become one of the most astounding features of Operation Desert Storm, Schwarzkopf said that only 28 U.S. troops have been killed in ground conflicts since the land war began on Sunday, though the number increased relatively quickly since Tuesday, when seven troops were reported killed in ground action.

Seven of the 28 were Marines who were killed during a mine-clearing operation. Another 28 reservists were killed Monday evening when a warhead of a Scud missile hit a military barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Twenty-three troops were killed in action between the start of hostilities on Jan. 17 and the beginning of the ground war.

Iraqi troops, however, have suffered severe casualties, with infantry units stretched along the Kuwaiti border suffering the most. Heavy air bombardment, followed by intense ground raids, resulted in a ''very, very large number of dead'' in these units, Schwarzkopf said. ''We even found them when we went into these units ourselves and found them in the trench lines.''

Schwarzkopf used adjectives such as ''brilliant,'' ''superb'' and ''extraordinary'' to capture the success of airborne forces who parachuted into remote areas, troops who punched through Iraqi fortifications in southern Kuwait and cavalry divisions that steamed toward Republican Guard units near the Euphrates River.

Over merely eight hours Wednesday morning, allied forces ''rendered inoperable'' eight Iraqi divisions, which at their height consisted of 20,000 troops each. Three of those divisions were composed of Republican Guard troops.

A U.S., French and British force in southeastern Iraq trapped the Republican Guard in its highly fortified positions in the area, said Gen. Maurice Schmitt, the commander of the French allied contingent.

The 18th U.S. Army Corps, to which the 9,000 French combat troops are assigned, cut off the Republican Guard's route of retreat to Baghdad through an ''encircling maneuver'' carried out together with the 7th U. S. Army Corps and the British 1st Armored Brigade, Schmitt said.

The liberation of Kuwait City followed a large-scale tank battle in which Iraq's 3rd Armored Division was beaten at the Kuwait International Airport at a cost of more than 100 tanks. The airport had been encircled Tuesday by U.S. Marines, who were later joined by Army units and other allied forces to wipe out the Iraqi armor.

But the military success came at a heavy cost to residents. Many were tortured and killed, while an estimated 40,000 citizens were rounded up and taken as hostages.

Schwarzkopf suggested that the civilians may be used as a bargaining chip by Saddam Hussein for land but could only speculate on their whereabouts.

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