The U.S. military opens up a northern front as officials admit to a longer, harder war than planned.
Iraqi soldiers have been offering stiff resistance
Coalition forces marked the end of the first week of war with the opening of a new northern front, as U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair met at Camp David for the first time since the invasion's start.
Military officials told wire service reporters that 1,000 U.S. troops from the 173d Airborne Brigade, based in Italy, parachuted into Northern Iraq overnight. The troops are in the process of setting up an airfield which will support "a robust flow of follow-on forces," according to one U.S. defense official.
The point of those forces will likely be supporting Kurdish fighters in the north of the country as they get ready to take on Iraqi troops. A British official told Reuters that will remain the troops' first priority, before a potential march on Baghdad from the north.
Action in the north was supplemented by renewed bomb attacks on the capital of Baghdad. Coalition planes flew four waves of bombing attacks, according to Arab television, and the country's information minister said 251 suffered injuries. The Iraqi information ministry said around 175 civilians have died since fighting began a week ago, including an alleged 15 in a bomb attack Wednesday that hit a residential area.
Sandstorms that have delayed the advance of U.S. and British troops in the south, cleared by Thursday morning. U.S. military officials said armored columns and thousands of troops were preparing for a fight with a small armoured vehicle units moving south out of Baghdad. The armored vehicles were not the massive tank columns initially reported on Wednesday evening, according to the Pentagon.
Longer, harder war than expected
The military has so far taken 4,500 prisoners of war, but officials admitted in reports on Thursday that Iraqi forces have learned from past wars and offering stiffer resistance than expected. Guerilla-type attacks, which include the use of human shields and deceptive offers to surrender, have rattled U.S. and British troops trying to secure the southern cities of Basra and Umm Qasr.
A U.S. defense official told Reuters that Iraqi troops were "a learning adversary, and they have adapted to some things we've done." In Washington, Pentagon officials admitted privately that the war would require more forces and would take longer than initially expected, according to a report in the Washington Post.
More than 30,000 new troops, including the 4th Infantry are expected to arrive in the region in the next few days. The new soldiers would push the coalition force troop count over 300,000.
In a speech to American forces stationed in Tampa, Florida, President Bush alluded to the tough going coalition troops would have in the coming months and told the soldiers and their families to expect a long fight. "The war is far from over," he said.
Bush, Blair meet amid international criticism
President Bush, right, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair talk at Camp David, Wednesday night, March 26, 2003. Also pictured in background are Chief of Staff Andy Card, rear left, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
Bush met with Blair on Wednesday night and Thursday in Camp David, their first face-to-face talks since the start of the war. The two are expected to discuss the U.N. role in reconstruction and aid in post-Saddam Iraq.
Washington and London have come under a lot of international criticism in the past few days. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told parliament on Wednesday that what the United States was doing "challenges not only Iraq, but the whole world."
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a speech to an emergency meeting called by members of the Arab League Wednesday night, said he regretted the U.N.'s failure in preventing a war.
"All of us must regret that our intense efforts to achieve a peaceful solution through this council did not succeed," he said. "We are living through a moment of deep divisions, which, if not healed, can have grave consequences."
The U.N. is expected to issue a worldwide appeal as soon as Friday for more than $2 billion (€1.86 billion) to solve the massive humanitarian crisis facing Iraq. Blair is to meet Annan Thursday evening before flying back to London.
Compiled by DW-WORLD staff with information from wires
Information on troop movements, victims and damage estimates are based on information from parties involved in the war and cannot be independently verified.