A senior U.S. military commander is warning that combat will be a problem in a country like Iraq with suspected chemical and biological weapons.
Army General William Kernan was not talking specifically about Iraq. But during a briefing for Pentagon reporters Tuesday, the commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command reflected the military's deep concerns about going into any potential combat environment where an opponent might have chemical or biological weapons.
General Kernan stressed intelligence will be the key, otherwise he says civilians and soldiers alike could suffer.
"Obviously a lot of this is linked to precise intelligence - knowing precisely what is there, knowing what it is that we can target," he explained. "How can we isolate the area? How can we attack it? How can we minimize collateral damage? What type of weapons systems will we use?"
The general said deeply buried underground targets pose a major challenge. He did not elaborate but other defense officials have said Iraq has underground bunkers where its chemical and biological agents could be stored.
The Pentagon is exploring new ways of attacking such underground sites. One idea under study is a deep-penetrating bomb designed not to blow up a target but to seal it off with an impenetrable substance. The aim would be to minimize the chance of spreading poisonous gas or germs, something that could threaten soldiers and civilians alike.