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Forces not 'paused'; coalition attacks continue

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Army Gen. Tommy Franks said coalition forces are not "paused" and are not suffering from a lack of supplies.

Franks, who spoke today at a press conference in Qatar, said, "Where we stand today is not only acceptable, ... it is truly remarkable."

He spoke of "large and capable ground forces within 60 miles of Baghdad on multiple fronts." Coalition forces' combat systems are above 90 percent mission-capable and elements continue to attack Saddam Hussein's forces.

"The regime is in trouble, and they know it," Franks said. "Every day, we diminish the regime's ability to command and control its forces. Every day, we erode the regime's grip over the Iraqi people."

Franks listed the Operation Iraqi Freedom objectives met in the first 11 days of combat. He said the coalition has secured the southern oil fields, which Iraqi regime forces had wired with explosives. Starting the ground war early allowed coalition forces to save those resources for the Iraqi people, he said.

Franks said coalition forces have air and ground freedom of action in western Iraq, and this protects Iraq's neighbors from potential regime use of weapons of mass destruction.

Coalition air forces are working "24 hours a day across every square foot of Iraq." Every day, Franks said, the regime loses more of its military capability as Iraqi command and control facilities, missile launchers and republican guard assets are targeted and destroyed.

Coalition forces are now staging air operations from Iraqi airfields.

Franks said coalition special operations forces destroyed a massive terrorist facility in northern Iraq. Ground forces are already examining that site. He also said the introduction of coalition ground forces into the area poses a "real threat" to the Iraqi regime. Franks said these forces also have prevented feuding between Turks and Kurds.

"The entire Iraqi coastline is secured, and the ports stand as a gateway for humanitarian assistance for the Iraqi people," he said. The first aid has already started flowing to the Iraqi people, and seaborne aid is unloading at the port on Umm Qasr.

The Iraqi people are beginning to cooperate with coalition forces. "A member of the Free Iraqi Forces met his mother for the first time in 12 years in the town of Umm Qasr," Franks said.

"Two men stepped forward to surrender to U.K. forces," he continued. "They are brothers who were trained in Baghdad to be suicide bombers and were sent to Umm Qasr by the regime to kill American and U.K. forces. Amazingly, when they heard Free Iraqi Forces speaking Arabic in the south, they chose to fight for the future of Iraq rather than this dying regime."

Iraqi civilians are working with coalition forces in Nasiriyah to point out the regime death squads, Franks said.

He again said this military campaign is like no other before. "We will attack the enemy at times and at places of coalition choosing," he said. "We will continue to surprise the enemy by attacking at all times, day and night, all over the battlefield." (Courtesy American Forces Press Service)

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