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Pentagon: Allied Forces  Cross  Euphrates River - 2003-03-22


Pentagon officials say U.S. forces fighting in Iraq have successfully crossed the Euphrates River, the major waterway on the route to Baghdad.

Major General Stanley McChrystal told reporters coalition forces are making good progress as they race north from Kuwait toward the Iraqi capitol and are now about half-way to Baghdad.

"On the ground coalition forces continue the main attack towards Baghdad," he said. "Ground forces have reached more than 150-miles (241-kilometers) into Iraqi territory and have crossed the Euphrates River. Coalition forces are advancing north beyond An Nasiriyah."

Despite the progress, General McChrystal warned there are still six Republican Guard divisions and they could decide to fight as soldiers approach Baghdad.

The general said special forces are operating in northern Iraq, but have not yet secured the extensive oil fields there. He said there is no evidence yet that any of the wells have been set on fire.

General McChrystal said Iraqi soldiers, including some leadership, have been surrendering in large numbers.

He pointed out that, in the opening days of the war, U.S. planes have flown more than 1,000 missions and have attacked hundreds of targets across Iraq.

American ships and warplanes have launched 500 cruise missiles during the period.

General McChrystal said the air bombardment will continue as long as there is resistance from Iraqi troops.

"The air campaign has been directed at a number of targets," he said. "Most importantly at the beginning the Iraqi command and control capability, the regime leadership, weapons of mass destruction and their capability to execute those. That is tied to command and control as well. It will continue to target additional parts of the force as long as resistance is there to include Republican Guards, Special Republican Guards, the intelligence."

General McChrystal said coalition soldiers have so far not found any Scud missiles or weapons of mass destruction in the territory they have captured.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials say American ships waiting off the coast of Turkey are being sent through the Suez Canal to the Persian Gulf.

The decision ends U.S. attempts to obtain permission from Turkey to use military bases to deploy more than 60,000 soldiers that could have opened a northern front against Iraq.

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