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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Patriot Batteries Vulnerable in New Northern Front

Aired March 27, 2003 - 02:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Lisa Rose Weaver is with a missile defense unit somewhere on the road to Baghdad. She's able to check in now, and we want to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves.
Lisa, it's good to hear from you.

LISA ROSE WEAVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Aaron. I'm within about 100 miles of Baghdad, in a very forward position for Patriot missile air defense in this war and, actually, in Patriot missile defense history. We're camped out in the desert, flatlands, with other U.S. combat ground forces at the perimeter, so we do have a level of protection here. To the east now, just in the last few minutes, I can see and hear on the horizon tank battle between U.S. forces and the Iraqi Medina Regiment. That's intermittent (UNINTELLIGIBLE) boom from the occasional (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on the horizon. Then to the north, also intermittent artillery or mortar rounds. I'm not really sure which. This is an area that U.S. forces have been attacking for the last couple of days.

The pattern of battle here is that Iraqi forces tend to push south, toward where I am, at night and sort of regain their position at night. And then in the daytime, the U.S. forces push them back. And this sort of back-and-forth has been going on for a couple of days -- Aaron.

BROWN: To what degree is weather a factor? It's been a factor for the last couple of days.

WEAVER: Well, it happens to be a very clear day now, but it was very much a factor during our 12-hour journey up here. We had a very long convoy. Initially, we started out with several batteries of -- air defense batteries and a battalion command and some other support units. They dropped off at a more rear position. We continued forward to this position. And there was an incredible sandstorm for the third day in a row. The atmosphere was absolutely -- it was actually red. It was like being on Mars -- very, very low visibility. And it was a potentially dangerous situation. We got word of an ambush not far from where we were on our way up.

We spent quite a lot of the drive moving through some very dangerous territory. And you know, with a -- with a missile defense convoy, it's -- you're not in hardened vehicles. We had some ground defense with us, but Patriot missile batteries are not designed for combat. That's not what they do. They defend. So when they move through these areas in long convoys with trucks and launchers that get stuck in the sand and create delay after delay after delay, where we sit there, it's potentially dangerous. Fortunately -- fortunately, nothing happened, and we -- we were able to arrive safely -- Aaron.

BROWN: Lisa, this may not be a fair question to ask of you, but let me ask it anyway. And if you can't, feel free to walk away from it. You were describing that the Iraqis move at night, move forward at night, and the Americans push them back during the day. And what is confusing to me about that is simply I thought the Americans owned the night, that they had all the high-tech tools to see at night and that the Iraqis don't. So any sense of why it's playing out that way?

WEAVER: Well, I'm -- what I just described is one small area in what is obviously a very large and complex battlefield across this part of the country. It just happens that military people I was talking to earlier today were describing the pattern of battle just immediately to the north of us. And by that I mean a couple of miles, maybe not even. So yes, you're right. I -- it would not -- it wouldn't be right to say that this pattern applies to -- to the whole country. It's just at this particular spot -- Aaron.

BROWN: Got it, Lisa. Thank you. Lisa Rose Weaver, who's with a missile defense group on the road to Baghdad. And she could hear a tank battle going on not far from where she is.

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