Military leaders predict quick end to the fighting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

British and American commanders in the field appeared to be more optimistic yesterday than their political masters about winning a quick war.

British and American commanders in the field appeared to be more optimistic yesterday than their political masters about winning a quick war.

One senior Royal Air Force officer told reporters at the Allied command centre in Qatar who had asked when the US-led forces would be in Baghdad: "If I was a betting man, and I'm not, I would say hopefully within three or four days."

A colleague later said Group Captain Al Lockwood had been offering a personal opinion, but his audience had the impression that coalition forces were reaching some targets quicker than expected.

Earlier, a British officer leading the battle group of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment suggested the fighting could be over in just 10 days. Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins made his prediction in a rousing speech to his men before they headed north across the Iraqi border. The commander said he expected the coming conflict to last a maximum of three weeks.

Yesterday a senior US military commander in the Gulf echoed the British military's optimism by also predicting a swift victory. "We're into this now, we're going to win it and we're going to win it fast," said Rear Admiral John Kelly, commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln battle group and of all US Navy aircraft in the Gulf. He told reporters Iraqi air defences against Tomahawk cruise missiles and aircraft had increased significantly in response to US air attacks on key targets in Baghdad.

As US and British forces move deeper into southern Iraq, military strategists are free to explain the significance of the early gains. Yesterday British forces secured the al-Faw peninsula on the Persian Gulf, a key transit point for Iraqi oil in the south. A British Army spokesman in Qatar, Lieutenant-Colonel Ronnie McCourt, said that will prevent the Iraqis from allowing oil to pour into the Gulf. "The oil infrastructure has not been damaged, and, any attempt by Saddam to release oil to create an environmental disaster has been avoided," he said.

But politicians have been pointedly more cautious. Tony Blair told reporters in Brussels yesterday that Iraqi resistance meant the "campaign will not necessarily achieve all its objectives overnight".

Comments