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Battle With Elite Republican Guard Imminent, Says British Army Chief - 2003-03-28


Britain's army chief says the battle with Iraq's elite Republican Guard is imminent, and he says Iraqi paramilitary forces are dying by the hundreds.

The chief of staff for the British army outlined the strategic battlefield situation in Iraq.

General Jackson said British troops have succeeded in pinning down Iraqi forces in the south, but U.S. forces farther north continue to run up against areas of Iraqi resistance.

General Jackson says a battle with Iraq's elite Republican Guard south of Baghdad appears imminent, and he offers little hope for the fate of Iraq's paramilitary forces.

"The conventional fight, if you like, with the Republican Guard, is not too far away, I suspect," he said. "But on the irregulars, these are supporters of the regime who have, it seems to me, nowhere else to go. Their futures are pretty limited. They have my sympathies, these people. They have nowhere else to go and they are, I am afraid, dying in quite large numbers."

General Jackson said the British army is gearing up for a major humanitarian relief effort aimed at winning over the hearts and minds of Iraqi civilians.

"This will take time. This is a very considerable hearts and minds challenge," General Jackson commented. "But it is part of the campaign without a shadow of a doubt. We need to earn the trust of the Iraqi people. I know of nobody better placed to take on this challenge of hearts and minds than the soldiers of the British army. We are hugely experienced in doing this. We have, I think, an innate understanding that you've got to look at situations through other peoples' eyes and other cultures' eyes."

General Jackson also bristled at media reports that the U.S.-led invasion has become bogged down on its march toward Baghdad.

He said armies must stop from time to time to rest, regroup and resupply, and this does not mean the coalition forces have been impeded.