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US Troops Parachute into Kurdish-held Northern Iraq - 2003-03-27

The U.S.-led coalition has begun to open a northern front in Iraq, airdropping troops into Kurdish-held territory.

Defense officials say 1,000 U.S. troops from the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade have parachuted into Kurdish territory in northern Iraq, marking what one Pentagon source characterizes as the start of the coalition's northern option.

Additional troops are expected to follow shortly, adding to the several hundred Special Operations troops already there and establishing the first sizable American presence in the north. The opening of the new front follows several days of allied bombing on Iraqi targets in the north.

U.S. military planners had hoped for a large-scale presence early in the war by sending in the Army's heavily-mechanized 4th Infantry Division. But those plans were dashed by Turkey's refusal to let ground forces cross its territory. The 4th's armor is now heading to the Gulf by sea from the Mediterranean while its troops are flying to the region, apparently to Kuwait.