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Pentagon: US Forces Holding Substantial Presence in Baghdad - 2003-04-08


Top Pentagon officials say coalition forces now have a substantial presence in and around Baghdad and have isolated the city.

Major General Stanley McChrystal said coalition troops have faced what he called "sharp fighting" as they continue to enter Baghdad.

General McChrystal said war planners believe Saddam Hussein's Special Republican Guard division still exists, but coalition soldiers are now so confident they can "spend the night where they want to" in Baghdad.

"We are sitting in the center of the city with almost an armored brigade right now, which is extraordinary. So, if you put it in that kind of context I think the end game is the end of the regime and that is much closer than people that it was," he said.

General McChrystal said it is not known if Saddam Hussein and his sons were killed during a bombing raid on Baghdad Monday, but he said it is clear the intended target was destroyed. "What we have for battle damage assessment right now is essentially a hole in the ground, a site of destruction where we wanted it to be. Where we believed high-value targets were. Where intelligence led us to believe that. We do not have hard battle damage assessment on exactly what individual or individuals were on site," he said.

General McChrystal characterized the strike as "very, very effective."

Asked about the importance of eliminating Saddam and his sons, General McChrystal said, "as much as they can exert any kind of influence, even if it is limited to Baghdad" coalition forces would like to reduce that.

The general said since the war began coalition warplanes have flown 30,000 flights over Iraq and dropped 20,000 bombs on military and regime targets.

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