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Army Sec.: Troops Ready for Iraq

October 31, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ American troops are ready, should they be drawn into the dangerous and complicated job of fighting an urban war in Iraq, Army Secretary Thomas E. White said Thursday.

That kind of warfare may be necessary to meet President Bush’s goal of removing President Saddam Hussein from power.

Saddam has promised to take any war with the United States into his cities, and U.S. military and intelligence officials acknowledge that combat in Baghdad’s neighborhoods may be Saddam’s best chance to counter some of America’s military advantages.

In a meeting with reporters Thursday, White declined to talk specifically about Iraq.

``I’ll just say the Army’s ready,″ White said. ``That’s our job, to be ready, and the Army’s ready.″

Fighting in cities is costly to both armies and civilians. A defending force can choose from a host of hiding place: _ buildings, rooftops, cellars. And artillery bombardment and precision airstrikes _ key to American military superiority _ carry the potential for heavy civilian casualties and damage.

White noted the difference in training for such warfare today compared to a decade ago, saying the Department of Defense now has excellent facilities for training troops in urban fighting on a number of bases _ not just at its major training centers.

``They’re really big league facilities,″ he said.

New technology also gives the soldier better intelligence and night-vision weapons to use in urban fighting.

``There are all sorts of things coming along in the munitions area that will help us operate in urban terrain as well,″ White said. ``So there’s a great deal of technology that’s being applied to make the individual soldier more effective in what is a very complicated and dangerous environment.″

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