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US General: Most Republican Guard Divisions Outside Baghdad Destroyed - 2003-04-05

The commander of the coalition air campaign, Lieutenant General T. Michael Moseley, says most of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard divisions outside the Iraqi capital have been destroyed. The commander says coalition air forces are now providing 24 hour patrols over Baghdad to support soldiers on the ground.

General Moseley, the commander of the coalition's air war, spoke to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone from his headquarters in Saudi Arabia.

General Moseley says planes are now flying around the clock missions designed to prepare for any future ground attack on the Iraqi capital.

He says massive coalition air power has crippled the Republican Guard near Baghdad. "I will tell you up front that our sensors show that the preponderance of the Republican Guard divisions that are outside of Baghdad are now dead," said General Moseley. "We have laid on these people. I found it interesting when folks say we are softening them up. We are not softening them up, we are killing them."

But General Moseley warns that not all Republican Guard soldiers have been killed, and some are likely to resist as coalition forces enter Baghdad.

The general predicts there will still be "a lot of fighting left" before the war is over, but he says the Iraqi military as an "organized defense in large combat formations doesn't really exist anymore."

He says some Republican Guard troops have been "trying to get away" from coalition air and ground pressure and trying to regroup to fight later.

In the general's words "We either kill them or they give up. There is no way out for these guys."

General Moseley says his forces will use the least possible force to provide air cover for ground forces in Baghdad. "The trick is to use, if you have to do this, is to use the smallest munition possible to get the maximum effect so you that don't create unnecessary loss of civilian life or property," he said. "It is interesting in a situation like this that we are more concerned about the population up there, and we are more concerned about people, and the property and the structures than the Iraqi military is."

General Moseley says the air support plan for Baghdad calls for "forward airborne controllers over the city 24 hours a day and multiple sets of fighters with multiple munitions options."

He cautioned that Baghdad's air defenses have been badly degraded, but not obliterated.