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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

U.S. Forces Set Up Forward Operating Base in Northern Iraq

Aired March 29, 2003 - 03:18   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to check in with Jane Arraf. She is at the Harir airfield. That is in northern Iraq, and that's also where cargo planes have been dropping off war materials. And we get more from her now.
Jane -- hello.

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Hi, Daryn.

We're at the edge of this airfield, and we just want to just show you a little bit of it.

You can see that it's sort of coming up behind us. Now, three days ago this was just an empty landing strip built by Iraqi government forces. It's been taken over by the 173rd Airborne, who dropped down in a very dramatic airdrop.

And what they're doing now is building tents and other logistical things to make it, what they say, more livable. In the distance we can see a transport helicopter, some tents, containers -- everything they need to actually turn this into a base if they want to.

Now, we're not seeing planes land, those big transport planes, because they've been doing it at night. This still, they feel, is a dangerous area, and they're using the cover of darkness.

Around the perimeter of this airfield some of the airborne troops have been deployed to maintain security. Now, they're working with Kurdish forces. And one of their big problems has been the weather. They airdropped down into a muddy field essentially.

And as one soldier told us, Specialist Zakaria Shone from Seattle, it wasn't quite what they expected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAKARIA SHONE, U.S. ARMY: Just get your chute ready, get your pack ready, we're going. And so we didn't really -- we got a little bit of a briefing on the weather, so we were kind of ready for the cold. But I didn't know it was going to be this cold. So we packed really light. Pack light, freeze at night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARRAF: And they have been freezing. They say they've been huddled together for warmth. Some of them have been using their parachutes. Now, as this tent city progresses, it will get better. And officials still say they plan a robust force here, but it still seems very much up in the air as to what that force is going to do, whether it will go and provide a northern front or simply beef up the Kurdish front line with Iraqi forces -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jane, thank you for the tour of that airfield in-the- making.

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