The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SERVICES
 
 
 
SEARCH
Web CNN.com
powered by Yahoo!
TRANSCRIPTS
Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

War in Iraq

Aired March 30, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The resistance that's been encountered has been, in pockets, quite stiff. It's going to get more difficult. As we move closer to Baghdad, there's no question but that you're going to begin confronting the Republican Guard. And I would suspect that the most dangerous and difficult days are still ahead of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: America's defense secretary on what coalition forces are up against in Iraq right now.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting tonight live from Kuwait City. We welcome our international viewers this hour.

This strategy and the planning discussed as well this morning by General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in the region. He made it clear very few people know how the military plan was put together.

One of them is General Franks's boss and our guest today on Late Edition. From Washington, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Myers, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks so much for joining us.

And let me get right to the immediate issue, these latest explosions that have rocked Baghdad, the fires that we've been seeing. What do you know about these latest U.S. attacks in the Iraqi capital?

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Wolf, I don't have any specific knowledge of what -- where those fires originated from, if they are from coalition bombing or something that's happening inside the regime there, inside Baghdad. I just don't have any information right now on that.

BLITZER: But without getting into these specific fires that we're seeing, these explosions, I assume Baghdad and the surrounding outskirts of Baghdad were targets for tonight. Is that right?

MYERS: Well, there are lots of targets for tonight. Baghdad, in terms of regime leadership, regime command and control, they will continue to be targets. And then, of course, for putting a very high percentage of our air sorties against the Republican Guard divisions that are defending Baghdad.

BLITZER: Are those Republican Guard divisions close to the Iraqi capital nearby, or are they further away from the center of the city?

MYERS: Well, it varies depending on which division. There are six of them, and some are further away than others. The one that's right across from the 3rd Infantry Division is, you know, inside probably -- we're inside 50 miles or right around 50 miles. They're a little bit inside that. There are others that are a little bit further away. They're probably the closest to Baghdad. But, you know, it just varies by division.

BLITZER: What percentage of the U.S. air strikes right now are being directed at the Republican Guard formations? MYERS: Yesterday, I think that was around somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. Today, I think the number is over 50 percent of our air power will be directed at those divisions, particularly their artillery, short-range surface-to-surface missiles, anything that could deliver, potentially deliver, chemical or biological weapons.

And those air attacks are not just fixed-wing air attacks. They're also Apache helicopters -- Army Apache helicopters and Cobra helicopters from the Marine Corps will be working over these divisions.

BLITZER: Do you believe that your three divisions, I believe, that you have right now in Iraq can handle six Republican Guard divisions that are surrounding Baghdad?

MYERS: Well, as you heard General Franks say this morning, he believes that the forces that are there, the forces that continue to flow, that we have the right forces for the task at hand.

And I might remind people that the forces that are still flowing to the region are forces that have been in the plan now for some months. Those people, in many cases, the reservists, they had to be alerted and mobilized literally months ago, and that's the case.

So, we're continuing the flow. We've put about somewhere between 1,500, 2,000, 3,000 people a day continue to flow into Iraq. The last number I saw was yesterday's number. I didn't see today's number. But we had over 90,000 of our forces, coalition forces, inside Iraq. And like I say, that number continues to build.

Certainly we're going to have the forces we need, that General Franks thinks he needs, his component commanders, his land component commander, General McKiernan, thinks they need to prosecute this attack.

BLITZER: The reason I asked the question is, as you know, maybe two or three more divisions are on the way here, to the Persian Gulf, but it could take them two, three, maybe even four weeks to get here, the 4th Infantry Division and others.

Is it fair to assume that the real assault on those Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad will wait until you have all those U.S. heavy-armor divisions in place?

MYERS: Wolf, I wouldn't advise anybody to make any assumptions. This plan, and our thrust, and our major attacks, and the way it will unfold will be at a time and a place of our choosing. The one thing you can count on is that we're going to have patience.

This -- we have a preponderance of power, we have air supremacy, essentially over the whole country of Iraq. We're operating out of several airfields inside Iraq right now, operating our aircraft from these airfields. We don't have a humanitarian disaster unfolding. We have control of the southern oil fields, so the oil and the revenue from that can be preserved for the Iraqi people. We are doing exactly what we planned to do, pretty much on the timetable we planned to do it.

Again, we're going to be patient. We're not going to put coalition forces in harm's way until General Franks and his subordinate commanders are sure that we're ready to go.

BLITZER: So the bottom line therefore is, when troops on the front lines are suggesting to some of the embedded journalists who are there that they've been told there could be a 30- or even 45-day pause in the assault on Baghdad, is that a fair bottom-line assessment, that there will be a certain pause?

MYERS: Again, I'm not going to talk about time lines. That assertion, I think, is way off base. But I'll leave that for General Franks and his commanders to decide. They're going to decide the timing of this.

You know, the 4th ID was supposed to go in through Turkey. Now it's being rerouted to come in through Kuwait. There are other forces that are in-train to go. They've always been in-train to go. But when we have set the proper conditions for major attacks, we will take them.

We have not been in an operational pause. The closest we came to any pause, of course, was two days of very bad sandstorms, where it was very difficult to operate. Even in those days, we were doing the sorts of things on the ground that we wanted to do.

But particularly today, we're still attacking the Republican Guard divisions with fixed-wing aircraft. There'll be some reconnaissance by our ground forces. We continue to press the attack. We continue to degrade the combat and effectiveness of these Iraqi Republican Guard divisions.

Of course we have other actions, in securing the lines of communication, in helping in An Nasiriyah, in Basra, in terms of ridding those cities of the death squads that are operating there and the Ba'ath Party folks that are still very loyal to the Iraqi regime.

BLITZER: General Myers, there are always surprises in battle, in warfare. What have been the biggest surprises so far, as you now are winding up almost week two of this war? MYERS: Well, I think General Franks said it exactly right. You know, war is a very chaotic sort of thing. It is more art than science. You can't predict precisely what's going to happen on the battlefield. It's just virtually impossible.

Having said that, I think General Franks would also agree that things have gone pretty much as expected.

You know, we had a spectrum of combat that we expected. On the one hand, we had to be ready for catastrophic success. If things went just unbelievably good, could our forces react to do the sorts of things that we wanted to do, such as secure the oilfields before they could be turned into environmental disasters and so forth, some of the things that I mentioned.

On the other hand, we had to be ready for a very tough fight from the first moment that we came across the Kuwait-Iraqi border. In fact, somewhere along that spectrum is where we are. It probably varies over time.

A couple of things, though, that people need to know. One is, the outcome is not in doubt. Victory will be certain. We will disarm the Iraqi regime from its weapons of mass destruction, and that regime is gone. And I think that as every day, every hour and every day goes by, they are beginning to understand this clearer and clearer.

BLITZER: And as we speak, there's even more bombing strikes going on in the Iraqi capital. We're showing our viewers some of these live pictures.

General Myers, do you believe that, as some armchair military analysts are suggesting, that you perhaps underestimated the willingness of the Iraqis to fight and die?

MYERS: No, I thought, you know -- the toughest part of this is ahead of us. I mean, we're meeting their Republican Guard divisions, which are their best-trained and best-equipped divisions. Some of them are not quite as well-equipped today because we've been working on them for some time now, but they are the ones that you would predict would put up the stiffest fight.

I think what you're seeing is, in some cases, acts of desperation. The suicide -- the taxi that was blown up and killed four of our soldiers, those are acts of desperation. Those aren't acts of a regime that is in control of its military, that has some way of having a militarily significant impact on our military. Certainly, the impact on our soldiers, where we've lost life, and so forth, is significant.

But in the larger scheme of things, things are proceeding apace. They are into desperation. The folks that are fighting the hardest are those that are closest to the regime, that once the regime falls they'll either be done in by their own people or they're going to have to get out of the country. These are the people that have tortured and raped on behalf of the regime that has oppressed the rest of that population. And I'm sure the population, once it figures out that we're there to remove that regime, that it's inevitable the regime goes away, that we'll see a much different picture.

BLITZER: I'll rephrase the question. The other criticism that I'm sure you're hearing is that perhaps you overestimated the impact of shock and awe, the air campaign, especially the first couple, three nights, that that would have a demoralizing effect on the Iraqi military.

Was there an overestimation of the air campaign?

MYERS: You know, we've been in this now just a little over a week, Wolf, and I don't know that we can make those sorts of judgments at this time.

We wanted to start with a lot of violence at the beginning of this war. We also wanted to start the war with some tactical surprise. We think we achieved that by the way General Franks started this campaign, this was his, you know, he was the one responsible for the timing. I think he did a brilliant job in achieving as much tactical surprise as he could.

And I go back to some of the things that we have done. You know, we have secured the waterway up to Umm Qasr. We have secured the platforms in the sea where they pump the oil into the ships. I mean, that would have been an environmental disaster for the Persian Gulf if they'd have been blown. Of course, there were explosives found there.

The southern oil fields are essentially under control of the coalition forces, so they cannot be an environmental hazard, set on fire, blown up, whatever, by the Iraqi forces.

There is not a humanitarian crisis. We essentially control western Iraq, and there have been no Scud launches toward Jordan or Israel. In the north, the Kurdish population has been reassured by the quick entry of our Special Operations forces.

So I think it's way too early to make some predictions about how it's going to work out. You never know when this thing is going to tip one way or another. We have a plan that is flexible and adaptable. Most of all, we have troops, men and women, that are flexible and adaptable with their leadership that can adapt to that full spectrum of warfare.

This is war. It is an art. There is a little science to it, but it's mostly art.

And so I don't know that we had unrealistic expectations. I certainly didn't. I know General Franks didn't, and I know Secretary Rumsfeld didn't. This is something that's going to have to play out.

Again, the end is not in doubt. It is certain this regime is leaving, and it's also certain that we will secure their weapons of mass destruction and deal with them appropriately. BLITZER: General Myers, let me read to you a quote from a new article that General Barry McCaffrey, retired U.S. Army, who led the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division into Iraq the last time around, a dozen years ago.

He writes in the new issue of U.S. News & World Report, "In sum, the plan was marred by interference from Defense Department decision- makers with no battle experience. These officials were prisoners of their own assumptions that the Iraqis would come apart under the shock and awe thunderstorm."

Is General Barry McCaffrey right?

MYERS: Well, first of all, General McCaffrey is a friend of mine, but that is not how this plan was developed. This plan was developed by General Tom Franks. When he developed that plan, of course, all the subordinate commanders, the land, the maritime, the SOF, the Marine commanders, all had input into this plan. It was gone over and refined and refined and refined over many months.

Of course, the civilian leadership played a big role in that, because the chain of command runs from our president, the commander in chief, through the secretary of defense, directly to General Franks. And so, of course, the senior leadership was involved as well.

But in the end, it was General Franks's plan. The Joint Chiefs of Staff reviewed that plan on many occasions. Secretary Rumsfeld reviewed that plan on many occasions, had many meetings with General Franks on this, but it's unfair to say that any restraints, constraints, any of that, was put on General Franks.

It was in the end his plan, a plan that he had to be comfortable with and had confidence. He does, we do today, I do, the Joint Chiefs of Staff do. There is nobody doubting that we have exactly the right plan, that we have the forces we need, and we have forces, as you know, continuing to flow forces that have been queued up now for several months to flow to the region.

I don't agree with those assertions. I think people that are closest to this understand how it was developed and would understand that that's just not the way it was done.

BLITZER: All right, I'll give you a chance to respond to an article that's in the new issue of the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who quotes an unnamed war planner as saying, "Rumsfeld had two goals, to demonstrate the efficacy of precision bombing, and to do the war on the cheap." That's obviously a very serious allegation.

MYERS: Well, that's just absolutely untrue.

Now, the one part of it that is true, you will not find a better steward of the taxpayers' money than Secretary Rumsfeld. I would like to think I'm a good steward as well. But that doesn't translate into a war on the cheap. That is not what this is about at all. That is just so far from the truth that I don't know how to counter it, other than I spend an enormous amount of time with our secretary of defense, so has General Franks, so have the other chiefs. We've all been part of this. Our thumbprints, our handprints are all over this plan.

This is not war on the cheap. We are not about to put our sons and daughters and those of our coalition partners into harm's way without ensuring they have everything they need to do the job.

And you can be assured that's what the secretary of defense is thinking. That's what the Joint Chiefs are thinking. That's what General Franks and his subordinate commanders are thinking. And I think any hint that it's been done otherwise is just a disservice to the truth and a disservice to the American people and our coalition partners.

BLITZER: Did the military, General Myers, fully anticipate the impact of the Fedayeen Saddam, the paramilitary units most loyal to Saddam Hussein, and this relatively new development that we've seen in the past few days, suicide bombing attacks against U.S. troops?

MYERS: Wolf, I think we knew these were going to be the most loyal and probably the most tenacious, the most audacious, but their only legitimacy is that the regime -- if the regime stays around. Once the regime is gone, the Iraqi people are going to take care of them, or they're going to have to flee, because they're the ones that have promulgated a lot of the torture and oppression that this regime has put on its people.

So, the other thing I would say is that the kinds of acts we are seeing from these people are really acts of desperation, and that they are not having a militarily significant impact on our operation. Our lines of communication are secure. Within 36 hours, we went 200 miles inside Iraq. Ground forces are performing superbly. We have several armored divisions in there right now. More are following. We don't know if they'll all close or not. It'll be up to General Franks on how much force he wants and how much he needs.

But these extremists are fighting very hard, but the tactics they are using appear to most of us as being tactics of desperation.

BLITZER: Well, I ask the question in part because of the highly publicized quote from Lieutenant General William Wallace, who is fighting this war. He's on the ground now here in the Persian Gulf. And you saw what he told reporters. I'll put it up on the screen. "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against."

That's also a serious suggestion that maybe the U.S. military was not necessarily fully prepared for what was in store for them.

MYERS: Let me say that General Wallace is a great combat commander. He's leading his troops extremely well, and you can never discount his viewpoint. Now, later in that article, he also said that our plan is on track. That's rarely quoted. But let me give you an idea of how you can have different perceptions, and that none of the different perceptions are necessarily wrong.

I was in a seminar after the Gulf War up at the Harvard Kennedy School, a couple-of-week executive seminar, when somebody made the statement, one of our instructors, that, you know, the division commanders in the Gulf War didn't think they got the air support they needed.

And being an airman that sort of disturbed me, so I went and called -- at the break I called my old boss, General Chuck Horner, who was the air boss during that conflict. And I said, "General Horner, how can this be?"

He said, "Well, it depends on where you were. If you're a division commander, you want as much air as you can get. But if you're General Schwarzkopf, he's going to put the air where he thinks it needs to be on the battlefield."

And so you can begin to see that there are views of the battlefield at the tactical level. And certainly General Wallace is out at the tactical, operational level of warfare. As you move up to General Franks, more at the operational level of warfare, some strategic level, come back to here to Washington, D.C., you get in the strategic and some operational level, that there are going to be different views and people will put things differently. It doesn't mean any of the views are wrong. It just depends on how they're seeing the particular scene.

And so General Wallace is doing a great job. He did say we are, like I said, later on in that article, that we're -- the plan is basically on track, and I'm not going to quibble with his characterization of anything.

BLITZER: Many Americans, General Myers, were shocked by those pictures of American POWs in Iraq. Do you have any indication that the International Committee for the Red Cross is about to be able to visit those POWs, as required under the Geneva Conventions?

MYERS: Wolf, I have no indication. You know, we've been making our case that the Iraqi regime -- they claim to be treating our prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention. And, of course, one of those provisions is that the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed to visit them as we have done. The over 4,000 enemy prisoners of war that we hold, we've allowed the International Red Cross to visit and we'll be responsive to their comments.

We would hope that the Iraqi regime would do the honorable and the right thing and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross in to visit these prisoners of war. That's their obligation. They said they were going to do it, and we just hope they follow through.

BLITZER: What about the Iraqi POWs? There are at least 4,000, maybe more. When will the Red Cross officials be allowed to visit them?

MYERS: As far as I know, I think they've already been inside. If they haven't, it's because they didn't feel the conditions were secure enough for them to go in. I knew that was the condition about three days ago. They said we want -- the International Red Cross. We said you can come on in. They said, we want to wait until conditions are a little bit more secure.

But I think by now that's been overcome. I think they have probably been inside.

But as you know, the International Committee of the Red Cross doesn't make public pronouncements. They work with the countries that are holding the enemy prisoners of war to make their reports.

BLITZER: General Franks, at his briefing this morning in Qatar, suggested that he hasn't seen any evidence lately that Saddam Hussein and his top leadership are really in control of the regime the way they used to be. What can you tell us about the status of Saddam Hussein right now?

MYERS: Well, right now the facts are, at least as far as I know, we do not know the status of Saddam Hussein, his two sons. I think it's curious -- I agree with General Franks. It's curious that we have not seen Saddam Hussein on live television broadcast. Everything we have seen has been taped. So whether it was pre-recorded or what the situation is, we don't know.

I think it's a little bit strange that a country that has lost air supremacy over its entire depth and breadth, that has enemy forces poised 50 miles from its capital, that has enemy forces, from the Iraqi viewpoint, coalition forces occupying its airfields, that the best spokesman they can put forward is their information minister. It seems to me that they would have a little bigger effort in putting forward some of their senior leadership to try to explain to their populace what the heck is happening.

BLITZER: Well, they have, on a few occasions, put forward the defense minister of Iraq. Does that suggest that their military is in command, with the defense minister making some television appearances?

MYERS: I don't think we can -- I can't draw that conclusion. Clearly the Republican Guard around Baghdad, you know, they'll be able to communicate with them, if by no other means by couriers, but by other tactical communications means, no doubt.

So there is probably some modicum of command and control of the Republican Guard divisions. But I think the further away you go from Baghdad, that their ability to command and control their forces is probably degraded, and in some cases significantly.

BLITZER: The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, told me last week that there was at least one report suggesting Saddam Hussein had been carried out in a stretcher following that first night of air strikes. How credible is that report? MYERS: Well, there have been several reports about the aftermath of our strike on the residence, and the farm and the place where the leadership was gathering.

And the problem is, it's very difficult to corroborate one to another. See, it's hard to connect the dots. Therefore, I think it's unknown what the status is of Saddam Hussein or his two sons or perhaps some other regime leadership.

BLITZER: Why is Iraqi television still on the air? A lot of people wonder whether or not you can, if you wanted to, take it off the air?

MYERS: Well, let me just say we're working on that. We understand some of the TV is up, some is down. Radio broadcasts are more sporadic. It's a fairly robust infrastructure inside Iraq. And it will take, it'll take some time.

Clearly they use that television for propaganda. They use it for command and control, and it's one of our targets. You know very well from knowing some of the target sets that have been struck up in Baghdad that, indeed, that is one of our objectives.

BLITZER: So is it fair to say it's a legitimate target, Iraqi television, and that you are still trying to knock it off the air?

MYERS: Oh, absolutely, it's a legitimate target. The regime uses it for command and control. That's how the leadership gets the message out. It's absolutely a legitimate target. But let me just remind all the viewers that one of the things that a great power does, and great powers in this case the coalition, does is try to minimize civilian casualties. And so whatever we do to try to take out various components of the regime, leadership, command and control and so forth, we're going to try to minimize civilian casualties. That's just going to be part of the equation. And I think we've done a good job up until now to do that.

BLITZER: The Pentagon yesterday suggested that the U.S. and coalition forces were effectively in control of about 35 percent or 40 percent of Iraq. In that area that you now control, have you had any evidence whatsoever finding weapons of mass destruction?

MYERS: Well, there are a couple of notes there. We have not found, to the best of my knowledge, chemical or biological weapons at this point in the areas that we are in. I'm not sure we should expect to. I think the closer you get to Baghdad, if you draw a map of where about 90 percent of their chemical and biological production and storage and so forth is, it's generally much closer to Baghdad. So I think that is yet to come.

We have done some site exploitation, examination, investigation of several sites. We did find, curiously enough, 3,000 chemical suits in an-Nasiriyah, new chemical suits that the Ba'ath Party had, that these regime death squads had. And it raises the question, why would they have chemical protective suits knowing that the coalition forces don't have chemical and don't have biological weapons? We also found some suits up north, I understand.

And then just recently we attacked and now have gone in on the ground into a site in northeastern Iraq where the Ansar al-Islam and al Qaeda had been working on poisons. And it's from this site where people were trained and where poisons were developed that migrated into Europe. We think that's probably where the Ricin that was found in London probably came, at least the operatives and maybe some of the formulas came from this site.

We are now on the ground in there. It's reported to be a large complex with lots of underground pieces to it, tunnels and so forth, and so it may take us up to a week to exploit that, to investigate that site and determine what is there.

So we're doing that. We're looking at some laptop computers, we're looking at other documents that have been found. And we're going to have to put these pieces together. We have people that are working that. Of course as soon as we find something, we hand it to the teams that are doing the investigation, and we will continue to do that.

BLITZER: That base is now completely under U.S. and allied control, that base out of Ansar al-Islam in the northeastern part of Iraq? Is that what you're saying?

MYERS: That's my understanding. We are in there on the ground with lots of force, some with some Kurdish help. Large number of Kurds that have helped us go into that area. It's an area that was struck from the air. It was an area that was -- and then restruck. We had AC-130 gunships up there trying to take care of the target before the folks on the ground went in.

We're now in there on the ground and starting our investigation of exactly who's up there and what's up there. I think we even have captured some people that were involved up there.

BLITZER: Is there a smoking gun that you've found so far linking these people at this particular base to al Qaeda, under the control of Osama bin Laden?

MYERS: Well, I think Secretary Powell pointed out in the U.N. that this savehaven inside Iraq had Ansar al-Islam and also al Qaeda operatives there. Some of the bodies that have been recovered, enemy bodies that have been recovered up there, are not Iraqis, they're not Iranians. We don't know for sure, but they're most likely al Qaeda.

That is not surprising. We've said that they've been up there. And we're going to have to continue down that investigative path to find out exactly what we do have.

BLITZER: General Myers, who good is the evidence that the Iraqi Republican Guard, other units, might be preparing to use chemical warfare or VX gas or other weapons of mass destruction, against coalition forces as they cross some sort of so-called red line on the way to Baghdad? MYERS: Well, a couple of thoughts there. First of all, you never know what their intent is. We have tried to influence it by telling those that actually have to pull the trigger that it's not in their best interest. That rather than fighting for Saddam, why don't you fight for a much better Iraq, Iraq that has a representative government that represents all the people, all factions, all ethnic factions of that populace? Why don't you make that the future you want your children to experience, and your grandchildren? And so we're trying to influence the folks that will actually have to carry out those orders, if they're given. So that's the intent part.

On capabilities, we know they have capabilities. We know they have weaponized chemical and biological weapons. They have surface- to-surface missiles that can deliver them, they have aircraft that can deliver them, they have UAVs that can deliver them, and they have artillery that can deliver them as well.

So some of our airstrikes have been going after the surface-to- surface missiles, the artillery pieces, to try to mitigate the effect that chemical or biological weapons might have if they decide to use them. The other thing I would say is that General McKeirnan and his ground forces subordinates are going to have to prepare for worst case, and they are prepared for the worst case, in case they want to use them. So we're prepared for that eventuality.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, General Myers, but a couple of additional questions, and then I'll of course let you go.

The missile attacks here in Kuwait, I think there have been 14. One of them, the other night, as you well know, hit a popular shopping mall right in the center of Kuwait City.

How scared, how worried, should people in Kuwait be that more of these kinds of missiles will hit Kuwait?

MYERS: Well, the fact is, you never know. But there has been, and continues to be, a very big effort on the Al Faw peninsula, which is just north of there, where we think this anti-ship missile was fired from, to find out where there might be more, if there are more.

They are not a very accurate missile. We have folks on the ground looking for locations. I would not be personally too worried about that.

In terms of the surface-to-surface missiles, the longer range missiles that have been fired, those that have been a factor to Kuwait population centers have been engaged by either Kuwaiti or coalition Patriot batteries, and we've had very successful engagements. Many of those missiles, which aren't particularly accurate as well, have landed harmlessly either in the water or in the desert, and often they aren't even engaged when they know it's going to an area that is not inhabited.

But I think the precautions that the Kuwaiti population has taken are prudent, and I think that the efforts you see the coalition forces using to try to make sure there are not pockets left where they might be able to hide launchers, I think we're doing everything we can do to protect not only the Kuwaiti population, but the population in Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, in Israel and in Turkey. And we will continue to do that.

BLITZER: All of the missiles fired so far have either been the Ababil or the Al-Samoud or, as you say, that Silkworm type of missile. Have they fired one Scud missile yet?

MYERS: To my knowledge, they have not fired one Scud. As you know, the intelligence estimates were before that they could put together from pieces that they had left over from previous inspections somewhere between a dozen and maybe two dozen Scud missiles.

They are longer-range missiles. They're the ones that could go into Jordan, perhaps Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait for sure.

And one of the reasons the plan was developed and was executed in the way it was was to secure western Iraq and to make sure that we did the best job we could do to ensure that they couldn't launch those Scud missiles from the launch baskets that they used in the Gulf War against Israel.

And we have air cover and reconnaissance assets and people on the ground in western Iraq operating freely to ensure that they can't use those launch baskets and launch places again.

BLITZER: And finally, my last question, General Myers: Iran and Syria, we heard the defense secretary the other day warn them not to get involved in this war.

I spoke with representatives of both of those governments yesterday. They denied that they were involved in any way, either letting military equipment cross from Syria into Iraq or, from Iran's point of view, encouraging their supporters inside Iraq to rise up against the U.S.

Do you accept those explanations from the governments of Syria and Iran?

MYERS: Well, the truth will be in what actions we see taking place, in terms of equipment flowing in to the Iraqi regime, and we're just going to have to watch and wait and see how that plays out.

The secretary said what he said based on very good intelligence, and now we have to see if Syrian and Iran are going to live up to the pledges that you heard. We certainly hope they do.

They should not be trying to influence this one way or the other. They should be just helping as much as they can. And it's certainly not helpful if you're supplying a regime such as the Iraqi regime with weapons, and we'll just have to see how it turns out.

BLITZER: General Myers, you were very kind with your time. On behalf of our viewers at CNN, CNN International, our viewers around the world, thanks so much for joining us here on LATE EDITION.

MYERS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to move right away to one of our embedded reporters here in the Persian Gulf. CNN's Gary Tuchman is standing by at an airbase not far from the Iraqi border. He's joining us now live via videophone with late-breaking developments.

Gary, talk to us.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are at this base near the Iraqi border, one of the busiest bases in the theater. There are more than 30 different airbases in 12 different countries in the Middle East, according to the Air Force, being used during this air war.

And this will be one of the busiest nights yet at this base. About 270 sorties scheduled, including on this aircraft behind me, the A-10, the Warthog. It's used to provide close air support for the ground troops.

And with us right now, a man who will be flying one of those A- 10s, scheduled to fly tonight. This is Major Sinjin (ph). Sinjin (ph) is his callsign, his nickname. He doesn't want me to use his real name on television, but he's originally from Iowa, he's now based in Idaho.

I want to thank you for joining, and tell me, how many missions have you been on so far during this air war?

MAJOR SINJIN (ph): I've been in just over 10 sorties so far.

TUCHMAN: Ten sorties, basically in 11 days?

SINJIN (ph): That's correct.

TUCHMAN: OK. Now, on the A-10, you carry weapons. How many times have you used the weapons on those 10 missions you've been on?

SINJIN (ph): It's run about 50 percent of the time, expending ordnance. And it just depends on who you get to work with and if they've found targets to strike.

TUCHMAN: Tell me. Your last mission was Friday. Tell me where you went and what happened on that mission.

SINJIN (ph): We actually, the second sortie of that night was a sortie that we expended Mavericks. They're missiles, forward-firing ordnance, that guide themselves to targets. We were tasked to a target that had several military vehicles in garrison, parked in revets (ph). I ended up being south of Karbala (ph). We had found those targets, positively IDed those as enemy, and had struck those, myself and my wingman.

TUCHMAN: When you say "wingman," just for our viewers out there, you fly, you fly by yourself in the plane, but you fly two planes at a time, correct?

SINJIN (ph): Right. Typically, we go out as two ships. We can go out as more, but that's our fighting force for this war so far.

TUCHMAN: How many different parts of Iraq have you been in in your 10 missions?

SINJIN (ph): It's been based on the priorities of the missions and where the ground order of battle's happening, but it's been about two or three, around Basra, around Talil, Nasiriyah, and then, as we get closer to the Baghdad fight, we're getting into the outskirts of Baghdad.

TUCHMAN: You fly low. Have you seen anything on the ground that has surprised you or that you thought was unusual?

SINJIN (ph): Well, I've been a night guy since the start of the war, and none of us are flying real low. We actually try to stay as high as possible, just to keep our tactics straight. But having not been in combat before, seeing AAA and missiles launched is quite a sight to see and something new.

TUCHMAN: You're trained to expect that, but until you actually fly during a war, you don't know what it'll be like, right?

SINJIN (ph): Right. Our training, we trained to a very high level, but some things you can't simulate in training, and until you see it, it's going to be something new. And I think that's what I've learned so far, is seeing exactly how they fight and what it looks like to be shot at.

TUCHMAN: It's only a matter of time, probably, before you head to Baghdad. How do you feel about that?

SINJIN (ph): Well, I think it's obvious for the guys that are flying out there that, as we get closer to Baghdad, it's more of a populated area. The challenge of targeting the right enemy forces and not inflicting collateral damage is going to get more difficult. And obviously, I think, as we get closer to Baghdad, it's more well- protected, and that's the idea, to try to beat those down. So I think the game is going to pick up a level as we get closer to Baghdad.

TUCHMAN: Does that scare you?

SINJIN (ph): I don't think we get scared. We just fight harder. And you've got to understand that we've trained to a very high level and to be honest, the challenges we've seen so far are not as high as what we trained to. And I think that's a good sign.

Does it mean that I'm not scared to go into combat? I think as we get closer, the stakes go up and we get deeper into the country, so we just start doing things smarter and we do it right.

TUCHMAN: When you went into the Air Force, I think you said 11 years ago, did you ever think you'd fight in a war?

SINJIN (ph): Well, I kept that mindset honestly for ten years and timing has not always been good but it has all come together now and I think the training and the focus that I've kept for ten years has helped. And it's very rewarding to be here and do what we've trained to do.

TUCHMAN: The final question for you. You told me you have two sons at home, a 9 year old and 5 year old. What do you tell them?

SINJIN (ph): I tell them Dad's fighting for the country, and I think they understand that. And the biggest thing is not to worry about your Dad or Papa, that this is what I've trained for and we do things right here.

TUCHMAN: Major Sinjin (ph), thanks for talking with us.

SINJIN (ph): You bet.

TUCHMAN: Good luck to you.

We want to add that there will be a total from all the different bases of about 1,500 sorties, the same number we've had for the past few nights, over Iraq. 800 of those 1,500 sorties will drop bombs or missiles on Iraq. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Gary Tuchman at an air base not far from the Iraqi border here in the Persian Gulf. Thanks very much for that report.

Let's move on now. Coalition forces have made significant gains in southern Iraq. But despite taking control of the port of Umm Qasr and laying virtual siege to Basra, coalition forces still are not in full control of Basra, Iraq's second largest city.

Our senior international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is joining us now live. She has more.

Christiane, what's happening today?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's been a lot of activity around Basra and there is almost daily and in fact nightly. Night video scope that you're going to be looking at shortly, that is what we see here and that is what we're being told about in all our daily briefings.

Today, though, there was a major offensive according to the British military spokesman. The Commandos of the British Royal Marines went up towards the southeast of Basra to take on some infantry and tanks that had come out of the southeast of Basra in an offensive position, we were told.

And so the commandos went up there to counterattack, and we're told that they have now secured that area near a place just southeast of Basra, and that they have captured, we're told, 200 prisoners from there and those are now being transferred to the British-held prisoner of war camp which is down near Umm Qasr, bringing the total to about 3,000 plus prisoners of war under British control from southern Iraq.

We also understand that the British did, they say, capture, at least five senior, they say senior Iraqi army officers including a general and killed a Republican Guard colonel. This all according to British military spokesmen here. In addition, though, we saw from a military cameraman who is up towards the Basra area, a situation where civilians were caught in the sort of crossfire, in a firefight. What's happening is because Basra is in fact not totally under siege, people are coming out and they're coming out fairly regularly, and sometimes they are caught up in these firefights. It was the Iraqi position, in this case, fired against a British checkpoint in the area and the British returned fire. We do not have any word on any casualties in that incident.

The British meanwhile continuing to step up their psychological warfare operations as well, particularly in and around Basra. They have been taking their army bulldozers and in some cases tanks to try to smash the images of Saddam Hussein that are larger than life and that are all over Iraq, hoping that this will symbolically weaken his political hold on the population. They also took out with the tanks the TV antenna tower in Basra to try to cut the voice of Baghdad to the people of Basra. So that's what's going on. Still a lot of jewels between the Iraqis inside Basra, the army and the irregular forces and the British on the outside to the west.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Christiane, you've been with these British troops now for several days. The suicide bombing attack against those U.S. soldiers the other day, what's been the impact on the British forces that you're covering?

AMANPOUR: Well, they're always, you know, quite careful. You know, the British have had a long, long, long experience at this kind of patrolling, checkpoints, this kind of, sort of urban, if you like, street fighting, and they've done it in many, many places that they have been.

And so they are very well-prepared for that kind of thing. But rather worryingly, reported this yesterday, when we were with an American civil affairs patrol in Umm Qasr we saw two people jump into the American Humvee and they were surrendering, and we were told that these people had been sent from Baghdad specifically to the south, in fact, to Basra itself to commit suicide attacks against either U.S. or U.K. forces.

And they had been hiding out for about a week saying eventually that they did not want to die for Saddam Hussein, and that's why they chose to try to jump into this Humvee and surrender.

And they now are also prisoners of war. So it is a worry and the British here tell us that they're always on the alert for any kind hostilities from whatever direction it may come from.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, covering this war for us. As usual, thanks very much for that report.

We have much more news coming up. Still ahead, what's it like to be a reporter on the front lines bringing you the headlines?

CNN's Walter Rodgers is with us. He's with one of the closest units to the front lines, close to Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We have been under heavy fire for the past couple of miles, mostly small-arms fire, but the sandstorm has enabled the Iraqis to come very close to the road, and if I sound a little nervous it's because we're in the soft-skin vehicle, and everybody else is in armor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Walter Rodgers, diary of life with the 37th Cavalry, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: In the meantime, coalition forces encircling Baghdad. More explosions heard in the Iraqi capital only within the past few minutes. More damage shown and expectations of a bloody battle, perhaps in an urban setting.

For more let's turn to CNN's Renay san Miguel. He's in the CNN news room with our military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd.

Renay.

RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you very much.

It is nighttime in Baghdad. Even though the coalition says they can fly air strikes around the clock, nighttime is usually when we see the most intense of the bombings.

We wanted to give you some idea of how the coalition might go about find those targets. Joining us is Major General Don Shepperd.

And, General, we have some animation showing how the coalition does get that information about Baghdad targets. Describe the level of different aircraft involved here?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, these are high-level aircraft we're looking at right now. This is the U-2, it operates above 60,000 feet, has radar, has listening devices, has photographic devices to take it through all kinds of weather.

This, again, is a high flyer, a part of the whole suite. The next thing that comes up is the Global Hawk. You see the Predator there. That'll come to lower, but this Global Hawk also flies above 60,000 feet, 40-hours' range, so it can stay airborne for a long time, high altitude.

Again, a suite of very sophisticated sensors combined radar as well as photographic and other infrared sensors, that type of thing, that can look down and see through any kind of smoke such as those fires we see down there.

This is the Predator, the medium-altitude, 15,000 to 25,000 feet. It's also armed with a Hellfire missile in some cases. It can give you video, as well as designate targets, as well as fire these missiles.

This is the Hunter, an Army drone for the close-in battle that can stay up and give army gunners, artillery, scouting mechanisms so they can use that for front lines.

So we have this entire suite, from 60,000 down to low-level, and it covers the entire battlefield and gives the coalition forces tremendous advantage.

SAN MIGUEL: But only one of those really manned, right, the U-2?

SHEPPERD: That's right. The U-2 is the only one that's manned. All the rest of them unmanned.

SAN MIGUEL: Also have some satellite imagery here from earthviewer.com and digitalglobe.com, showing one of last night's targets in Baghdad. The Abu Garayb (ph) presidential palace.

Coalition says this was a command and control target. After 11 days of this, are there any command and control targets left to hit?

SHEPPERD: There are many command and control targets, and emerging ones, as well. There are over 50 palaces around this country. This is one in downtown Baghdad.

These are valid leadership targets from which they command and control their forces. There are underground bunkers, there are deployed communications dishes, that type of thing, from which they talk from.

They hold meetings there and, of course, they also eat and drink there. So all of these things are valid leadership targets and will be hit repeatedly, is my prediction, Reney.

SAN MIGUEL: And what about the targets that Iraqi forces may be moving around, say, anti-aircraft batteries, missile batteries?

SHEPPERD: Well, the missile batteries will always remain a target. Now, the fixed missile batteries is something that we can hit fairly handily.

The mobile missiles that you will see as the ground battle develops, the SA-6s, SA-8s, are much more difficult, and the shoulder- fired missiles, of course, are very difficult, and triple-A (AAA), or anti-aircraft guns, that are moved around all the time provide very difficult, that's why coalition forces use the night so that the gunners without radar cannot see them and, of course, when we go after targets in downtown Baghdad with the heavy radar involvement, we jam those sites with things such as the A-6 B Prowler.

SAN MIGUEL: General Shepperd, we do appreciate your time, as always. Thank you very much.

SHEPPERD: Pleasure.

SAN MIGUEL: Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Renay and General Shepperd. Thank you very much.

Let's get an update now on the refugee situation in northern Iraq, where tens of thousands of people have fled their homes. Many are now living in tents. CNN's Jane Arraf is joining us now live from northern Iraq. She has more.

CNN's Jane Arraf is joining us now live from northern Iraq. She has more -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the front lines here in northern Iraq appear to be continuing to shift now around the city of Kirkuk. Kurdish forces have taken over territory left by retreating Iraqi forces. They've made about 15 kilometers, 10 miles in advances, towards Kirkuk.

Now again, that is territory taken over from retreating forces, apparently in an effort to ring around and protect the city of Kirkuk.

There isn't expected to be any northern assault here until the U.S. gets more troops in, if it intends to do so.

Closer to here, near the city of Mosul, there was repeated and heavy bombing, just across the ridge over there. We could see the aftermath of heavy bombing earlier this afternoon. The Al-Jazeera correspondent in the city of Mosul, one of the very few correspondents in that city, has reported sporadic explosions as well, and again, another effort here in the north to soften up those positions.

But as for that northern front, in the Herir (ph) airfield, close to Irbil, we are still seeing troops and equipment land, but certainly not enough so far for a northern assault -- Jim.

BLITZER: It's actually Wolf, Jane.

ARRAF: Wolf, I'm sorry -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But the overall situation -- certainly the overall situation doesn't appear to be the kind of humanitarian or refugee disaster that could have been the case. Obviously, it's a lot less than what a lot of people might have assumed.

ARRAF: Absolutely, and there are a couple of reasons for that. The main reason, of course, is, we're just not seeing refugees come from the south and center of Iraq, because the situation is too volatile and the fighting is still going on. That would only happen if the Iraqis lost control of those cities, that people would flee toward the borders, if they thought it was still dangerous.

The other thing is, as for the internal refugees, if you will, those Kurds in northern Iraq, a lot of them have still camped out in the mountains, in villages and schools, mosques, anything they can find, because they're afraid to go back to the cities.

But the situation isn't nearly as desperate as some had thought. And unlike 1991, the Kurds keep reminding us, there is an infrastructure here, and they can handle those refugees themselves. There won't be a power vacuum, they say, that would send half a million Kurds, as happened in 1991, rushing towards the Turkish border -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And many of us remember Operation Provide Comfort, designed to help those refugees.

Jane Arraf in northern Iraq, thanks very much for that report.

Hundreds of journalists, both from the United States and abroad, are embedded in this war, covering coalition forces. One of those reporters is our own Walter Rodgers. He's with the Army's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, an assignment that he likens to drawing four aces in a poker game.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RODGERS (voice-over): The situation here appears to be increasingly tense. A few moments ago, out on the horizon, not very far ahead of the U.S. Army's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, we heard more than a few explosions.

The U.S. Army's 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry has compiled a rather extraordinary record in the past several days. It was the first unit to cross the Euphrates River and then punch northward to within 60 miles of Baghdad.

It was the Army which assigned me to the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, and that was extremely fortuitous. It was like sitting in a poker game and drawing four aces, because this is a crack unit. It's the tip of the tip of the spear. We've had an absolutely terrific story, pushing forward north toward Baghdad. Seventy-two hours of that was under constant fire coming at us from both sides of the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just heard an incoming -- what the hell!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I don't know what it is.

RODGERS: Recall Winston Churchill's old quote, "There's nothing so exhilarating as being shot at and missed." What you try to do is stay calm and continue your broadcasting. The worst thing you can do, either as a soldier or as a war correspondent is panic.

We're hearing incoming. We're not sure what it is. We see some stuff in the sky. We may have to break this off. I think we're going to break off this live shot for the time being. We're not sure what we see up there. Goodbye. We've got to dive for vehicles, we think. See you. Bye.

You have to realize, they've been riding along, bouncing along in these tanks for probably six or more hours now. And if you ride inside that tank, it is like riding in the bowels of a dragon. They roar, they screech.

The hardest part of the trip is personal discomfort. We cannot tell you the levels of personal discomfort we've experienced. The extraordinary sandstorms, the bitter cold nights. The most uncomfortable thing is having to sleep sitting up in a Humvee with sandbags under your feet, your knees at your chin. That's excruciatingly uncomfortable, not something that you would wish on anybody but a contortionist.

Let me hold the camera and show you my crew. On camera left is Charlie Miller (ph), he's been our superb and intrepid cameraman. On my right is Jeff Barweis (ph), a brilliant satellite engineer. That's the crew which really brings you these pictures.

The pictures you're seeing are absolutely phenomenal. These are live pictures of the 7th Cavalry racing across the desert. You've never seen battlefield pictures like these before. What you're watching here is truly historic television and journalism.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And we tip our hat off to Walter Rodgers and all of his colleagues embedded with U.S. and coalition forces, covering this war in a way that has never been covered before.

Thank you very much, Walter.

CNN's live coverage of the war in Iraq continues at the top of the hour. Coming up, tracking troops who are missing in action or who have become prisoners of war. We're back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I say keep your nerve. We've been successful, we've achieved the majority of our objectives. And a major battle will be joined in the next hours or days as we confront the Medina Division. So keep your nerve, because we're doing fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A message to the U.S. troops from Arizona senator and former POW in Vietnam, Senator John McCain.

Good afternoon and welcome back to our special LATE EDITION. It's 9:00 p.m., just after 9:00 p.m. now here in Kuwait City, as well as in Baghdad, where the news is being made this Sunday.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live from Kuwait City.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: From CNN studios in Washington, I'm Candy Crowley. BLITZER: Welcome, Candy. Good to have you with us today. In just a moment, the U.S. military plan. We'll hear from one of the men who crafted it and get some insight into whether or not it's working.

For that, CNN's Patty Davis is monitoring developments. She's over for us at the Pentagon. General Don Shepperd is standing by in Atlanta. We'll hear from them straight ahead.

And we'll also get the latest on what's going on in Baghdad. Indeed, there are fires right now continuing in Baghdad. More anti- aircraft fire that's being heard, as well as explosions that have gone off within the past couple of hours. We're showing you these live pictures from downtown Baghdad. The network Al Arabia (ph) Television here in the Persian Gulf is reporting that two separate blazes are burning right now. More on that in just a moment.

But first, the latest situation unfolding right now in southern Iraq. There have been some dramatic developments going on outside of Umm Qasr on the way to Basra and elsewhere, and CNN's Christiane Amanpour has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's the very essence of life, and it's slowly beginning to flow to the people of Umm Qasr. The British and U.S. military have jointly extended a water pipeline from Kuwait, and they've hired local drivers and tankers to take it into town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The old terminology, hearts and minds, but this is a basic life-support function we've all taken for granted. And I think the common humanity of being able to get people fresh water is probably the most important thing we can do for them initially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need the locals to be happy with the fact that we're here. That's our goal.

AMANPOUR: Indeed, that is a primary goal of this military campaign. But this effort got off to a slow start. As desperate townsfolk clamored to fill Jerry cans, bowls, and barrels, confusion about whether they had to pay or not, the U.S. said no, the British said yes. And the military is in unfamiliar terrain without the U.N. or NGO experts in humanitarian aid.

In this part of town, British army assault engineers are fixing up a tap system, as fed-up Iraqis watch. They're wondering just when they'll get their drinking water after hearing promises for days.

The pipeline point is at the British Marines' base, and war- fighting continues there too. This base is also used to stage offensive attacks. This is 4-2 Commando Brigade of the British Royal Marines, and they're going now to fight off Iraqi infantry and tanks, which have burst out southeast of Basra.

These commandos say they are the point of the bayonet. Into this battle they take just what they can carry, including anti-tank weapons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to be anticipating going quite up to the enemy and taking them on at close range.

We were all expecting like a walk-over (ph), you know, them running out with hands in the air, you know, putting their weapons down, but there's been a bit more resistance than we first expected. But, you know, it's still early stages, so.

AMANPOUR: In an operation that lasted much of Sunday, the commandos captured five senior Iraqi army officers, including a general, and killed a Republican Guard colonel, according to military spokesmen.

Civilians trying to leave from the west side of Basra toward British lines found themselves caught up in a firefight. According to a military photographer, British troops at this checkpoint came under attack from the Iraqi side and returned fire.

Psychological warfare continues, too. British tanks take out Basra's TV tower, cutting Baghdad's line to the people. Army bulldozers are smashing Saddam Hussein's larger-than-life portraits in an apparent attempt to loosen his political grip.

Over here in Umm Qasr, they're not sure those tactics will work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam maybe go, maybe -- strong Saddam. Strong man.

AMANPOUR: Still, the British keep hoping to weaken his hold. When the people started defacing these images, British soldiers offered them paint and brushes.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Umm Qasr in southern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And once again, it's a heavy night of bombardment in the Iraqi capital, not only in the middle of Baghdad, but on the outskirts of Baghdad itself. More pounding from U.S. war planes, perhaps even Tomahawk cruise missiles.

We heard within the past hour from the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, saying that about half of those latest U.S. air strikes are going against Iraqi Republican Guard positions on the outskirts of Baghdad. More of that anticipated, indeed, in the hours and days to come.

In the meantime, we're watching what's happening in Baghdad, elsewhere in Iraq. Let's go to Candy Crowley in Washington for more -- Candy.

CROWLEY: (OFF-MIKE) gave Wolf an idea of what could lie ahead. We also have had some information out of the Pentagon today, and we're going to go now to CNN's Patty Davis at the Pentagon -- Patty. PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, U.S. defense officials making the rounds of those Sunday talk shows here in Washington, D.C., with one major message here: that this war with Iraq is proceeding on plan.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was responding to criticism from analysts who have said that the U.S. military underestimated how long that this war with Iraq would take. And he said they never had a timetable, that it could take weeks, even months.

Now, Rumsfeld said that U.S. troops over in Iraq have not turned up any evidence of weapons of mass destruction yet. But they say that is simply because they have not pushed far north enough yet. About 49 miles out of Baghdad is where the furthest north, at least on the southern pushing forces into Baghdad.

Rumsfeld said that there has been no pause, there will be no cease-fire with Iraq, that Saddam Hussein's regime will be dismantled. But he warns there are dangerous days ahead.

Now, also on the Sunday talk shows, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers complaining that Iraq has not allowed the International Red Cross access to U.S. POWs. He says, though, that the U.S. has allowed the Red Cross to take a look and get in touch with Iraqi prisoners of war -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Patty, let me ask you, we're getting sometimes a different picture from over there than we are back here. And already some reports that maybe there's some divisions at the Pentagon about what should or should not happen, what might or might not happen.

Do you get any of that sense when you're talking around to people, that some fissures are beginning to come up?

DAVIS: Well, I'll tell you, there have been some unnamed officials here at the Pentagon who, in a lot of published reports, have been complaining that Donald Rumsfeld basically wanted to send a lot fewer forces and ground troops in than actually were sent in.

But Rumsfeld today denying that, and says that General Tommy Franks, the head of Central Command, he designed the war plan, he's been calling the shots on that, and it's been a good plan.

So a lot of talk back and forth, and Rumsfeld at least denying that charge. Candy?

CROWLEY: Thanks, Patty. As you said, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld does credit General Tommy Franks with what he calls an "innovative battle plan."

We're going to go for more on that strategy back to Atlanta with CNN's Miles O'Brien and military analyst, General Don Shepperd.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank's very much, Candy. We have been looking at the map, trying to assess the situation as best we can. What's most interesting, Don Shepperd, to me is this idea of a pause. Is it a pause? Is it a cease fire? Is it a consolidation? The fact is we're seeing some kind of lull, aren't we?

SHEPPERD: Yes, there's some of all the above. Here's what it amounts to, Miles.

Basically, it makes sense that the third of the seventh cav is still out here roaming around below the Medina division, looking for emerging targets, pointing, doing the things they do, which is screening and reconnaissance, and they are consolidating. The third infantry division is moving up, resupplying, refitting, new troops coming up as well as the marines and the 101st Airborne.

O'BRIEN: Now, we added a different wrinkle here. A lot of folks -- we haven't told them much about this little northeastern piece of Iraq where there is a separate group, a group that might have links to al Qaeda, certainly Islamist and a little different from the secular regime in Baghdad. And now that has been targeted. Why?

SHEPPERD: Interesting. These are Kurds also in the Kurdish area. Another complication in the Kurdish area. Ansar al-Islam, a radical group of around 900 radicals, very much like the Taliban. The targets have been struck by coalition air power and they're in there now exploiting what they find in that area.

O'BRIEN: So it's layer upon layer when you get into Kurd country. It gets very complicated up there when you start considering there are Kurds that go up for this whole region. The Turks don't like the Kurds. This group is opposed to the Kurds, and everybody -- well, nobody likes anybody.

SHEPPERD: Two factions of Kurds here that fight back and forth. This is dicey stuff, fighting with the Kurds, keeping them apart, and keeping the Turks separated from all of this.

O'BRIEN: Meanwhile, the Iraqis seem to be retreating out of there. It seems to be a tactical retreat. Explain what that means.

SHEPPERD: It does indeed. The prize up here is the Kirkuk oil fields. What General Franks clearly would like to do is protect them, as he did the southern oil fields down there. So the idea is, they have made a tactical retreat. This is the Nebuchadnazzar Infantry Division up here making a tactical retreat, probably make a stand around here somewhere. You could see lots of fighting in this area very soon, Miles.

O'BRIEN: And if you don't watch it, you can end up just making big rocks into little rocks when you go into a bombing campaign in that area.

SHEPPERD: Yes. When you're hitting deployed forces in the field, they move. Sometimes you miss them.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's get down to Basra really quickly. I want to talk about that. The ebbs and flows of Basra are hard to keep up on. At this juncture, we still have a place that you cannot say is under coalition control by any stretch. We're looking at some nightscope fighting right now, Royal Marines versus some of the paramilitaries in that city.

What's your best guess on what the situation is in that city right now?

SHEPPERD: It's a difficult target, 1.2 million people, the second-largest city in Iraq. The British are in charge of this area. They have tremendous skills in this area. They've been doing it in Belfast for a couple of decades here. They know what they're doing, but they're running into tough fighting. They're trying to root out the bad guys through intelligence they get from friends that they are making of the people leaving the Basra area.

O'BRIEN: All right. That's an overview, not a complete overview, but a pretty good north to south look at what's going on right now. Appreciate it, Don Shepperd.

Send it to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles, and General Shepperd. And as you were speaking, four more explosions heard in Baghdad. It's been a busy night for U.S. bombers around the Iraqi capital. The bombing continues, explosions are heard, Iraqis responding with anti-aircraft fire, tracers going up in the skies, as our viewers have now become very, very familiar with.

We're going to continue to watch what's happening in Baghdad, see what else unfolds there and elsewhere in Iraq, because airstrikes are continuing at many locations around Iraq. We'll watch all of that as best as we can.

The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, says the most dangerous and difficult days of the war are still ahead. How are U.S. troops preparing themselves to meet the challenge for that. We turn once again to CNN's Gary Tuchman. He's embedded with the U.S. Air Force at a base not far from the Iraqi border. He's joining us now live via videophone -- Gary.

TUCHMAN: Well, Wolf, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 12th night in a row we have had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) out of this air base, which is near the border, the exact (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we say this (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but we want to remind viewers the exact location (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we're not permitted to say under the Pentagon (UNINTELLIGIBLE) journalists (UNINTELLIGIBLE). (UNINTELLIGIBLE) missions (UNINTELLIGIBLE) overall, over those nights, approximately (UNINTELLIGIBLE) missions from this base alone (UNINTELLIGIBLE) plane that's just going overhead right over us, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) authorities (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nation of Iraq.

BLITZER: All right, Gary, I'm going to have to interrupt. Unfortunately, your videophone is coming in and out. We're only hearing sporadically what you're saying. We're going to get that little technical glitch worked out. We'll get back to you and get some more information shortly. In the meantime, the war in Iraq is not getting glowing reviews in much of the Arab world, including in Egypt. Protests there have turned violent at times.

Now, a top daily newspaper in Cairo has called the campaign, and I'm quoting here, "unjust." Joining us now from Cairo is Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Maher.

Mr. Foreign Minister, thanks so much for joining us. Let me begin by asking you a question that was recently asked the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin. He was asked whether he would like to see George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein win this war.

The government of Egypt, who is it rooting for? Who does it want to see win this war?

AHMED MAHER, EGYPT'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Fortunately, we do not have to make this choice. We do want to see the war stopped. We do want to see the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Iraq respected. We do want to see all this devastation stop. This is what we want.

So we don't have a vote between both of them.

BLITZER: So, in other words, would you like to see a cease-fire right now in place that would presumably leave Saddam Hussein in power?

MAHER: I don't really know if a cease-fire is possible. What I know is, the goal of this whole operation since the beginning, we were told, was getting rid of weapons of mass destruction.

There was no talk about putting an end to a regime or changing a regime from outside.

And I think this goal of getting rid of weapons of mass destruction could have been achieved, and still can be achieved, in peaceful ways.

BLITZER: So does that suggest to you that the U.S.-British move, military move is unjustified?

MAHER: You know, we tried our best to prevent this military operation. We tried through diplomatic channels. We tried through the United Nations. The inspectors were improving their performance. They were getting more cooperation. They said they needed three more months, so we do believe that this war was not necessary, that it could have been possible to continue the diplomatic efforts and to come to a solution that would achieve the goal which was the goal the United Nations prescribed, which is getting rid of weapons of mass destruction.

BLITZER: Do you have any doubts, Mr. Minister, that the Iraqi government does have weapons of mass destruction hidden in various places around Iraq?

MAHER: I don't doubt. I have to rely on what the inspectors said, and they did not find such weapons. And I have to rely on the fact that the troops of the United States and Britain have been there for 11 days, they did not report, despite some rumors to the contrary, they did not report finding any weapons of mass destruction.

So I don't know. I personally have no information. I have to rely on the inspectors and on what will be found on the ground.

BLITZER: We've seen enormous protests in Egypt over the past many days, protesting this war. How angry would you say the people of Egypt, the Arabs in Egypt, the largest of all of the Arab countries, are right now at the United States, at President Bush?

MAHER: They are angry at the war. They would like to see this war stop. They see on all channels of television devastation, fires. They see casualties on both sides. They see stranded people. They see stranded missiles hitting neighboring countries.

So, it's a very difficult situation, and they are angry, because they feel that the Arabs and Muslims are under attack in Palestine, where the Israelis seem to have a free hand to do whatever they want, they are under attack in Iraq. So, there's a feeling of frustration, and of being the object of attacks that they find unjustified.

So there's great anger. There's great anger at the war, at what they see on the television scenes.

BLITZER: Is there no understanding of what President Bush and Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld keep talking about, the brutality of the Iraqi regime and the oppression that the people of Iraq are suffering under Saddam Hussein? Is there no sense of appreciation for that point of view?

MAHER: Well, there is a sense, there's a question that's being asked, is this the only brutal regime in the world? And who has given the right for foreign countries to try to change a regime because it is brutal?

I mean, there's nothing in the Security Council resolutions that says that the whole problem is the regime in Iraq. This is the choice of the people of a country, to choose their leaders. What the United Nations have said in its resolutions is that Iraq has to be disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction. This is the goal that everybody agrees upon.

BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Minister, and I'll let you go. U.S.-Egyptian relations, which have been very strong over the years, Egypt receives considerable sums of economic and military assistance from the United States, how concerned are you that this U.S.-Egyptian relationship could be undermined, given the widespread opposition within your country to what the United States government is doing in Iraq?

MAHER: Despite differences of opinion, we feel that there is a determination on both sides to maintain a relationship that has been beneficial to both, though I think that we will come out of this difficult situation with a strong relationship maintained in the interests of both sides.

So, I really have no worries about the future of our relationship.

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate your time, as well.

Let's throw it back to Candy in Washington.

MAHER: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

Next, the view from Capitol Hill. As U.S. troops fight the war in Iraq, what are the feelings inside the Beltway? Senators Chuck Hagel and John Rockefeller will join Wolf and me live, next.

Also, blazes in Baghdad. The latest when we return. And later, the Arab voice, a look at coverage on Arab television, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Live pictures from Baghdad. More explosions heard, at least four in the last several minutes rocked the Iraqi capital. More Iraqi anti-aircraft fire heard over the skies, tracer fire. The U.S. air war against selected targets in and around Baghdad continues. Most of those targets, we're now told, affecting Republican Guard positions.

Welcome back to our continuing coverage.

We're going to continue to monitor what's happening in Baghdad, elsewhere in Iraq. But let's get the view from Capitol Hill right now.

Democrats pledged to work with the Republicans to approve President Bush's request for emergency war funding. For more on the political climate, as well as the military action in this war, we go to Washington where we're joined by two key senators, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John Rockefeller of West Virginia. They're both members of the Intelligence Committee.

Thanks, Senators, for joining us.

Senator Hagel, you were among those senators early on who was pretty cautious, pretty worried about getting into this war. How do you think it's going so far?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Wolf, we are only into this now 11 days. It's far too early to be making historic judgments about policy and planning.

The fact is, many of us believed, and I think it's playing out here, certainly what we've seen in the last 11 days, that war is very unpredictable, it's uncertain. The Iraqis are putting up fierce opposition. I think it gets tougher. Secretary Rumsfeld reminded us of that again this morning, as did General Myers.

So we need to stay focused and support our troops, but understand, this is a dangerous, complicated business.

BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, do you think it's going as the military planners assumed it would be going?

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Probably not, but then war never does. I think a perspective on this is that Senator Hagel served in the Vietnam War, and the build-up and the carrying out of that was 11 years. This is 11 days.

And to have plans follow exactly as you expect them, I think that we did not expect that the Fedayeen would be as active as they are in the southern part of the country. And there's a number of other things.

We have to make adjustments. And I think our military is going to be agile enough to make those adjustments, and I hope our administration will be, too.

BLITZER: Senators, Candy Crowley is joining me in the questioning -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf. I wanted to show both you senators a couple of poll numbers that we have now on a poll that just came out today from CNN-USA Today Gallup. First of all, just 70 percent of those polled favor the current war with Iraq, just 27 percent oppose it. That's pretty much what we've seen all along.

What is interesting to me is when we asked for them to look at the difficulties faced by the U.S. troops in Iraq so far, 22 percent called this major problems. But look at this, about, what, 76 percent called it either minor setbacks or nothing to worry about.

I wanted to pose sort of the same question to you all. Let me start with Senator Rockefeller. From what you've seen and what the U.S. and British troops have faced, have these been minor setbacks in your mind or have they been major problems?

ROCKEFELLER: I would put them in the category of major problems, within the context of only 11 days. And I think we have to adjust to those.

I do not think we expected to see in Umm Qasr, Basra, An Nasiriyah, much less whatever happens when we get to Baghdad, the kind of resistance. That was, I think our intelligence warned about that, knew about that, I think the military knew about that, but I don't think anybody expected the fight would be as strong, there would be as much, kind of, a sense of fighting for a country, of Arabism, so to speak.

So, yes, I consider them not to be trivial setbacks, but I also assume that we'll make the adjustments.

CROWLEY: Senator Hagel, let me, along with answering whether you see them as major or minor, whose fault is that, or is it anybody's fault, that we did not foresee how persistent and resistant the resistance would be? HAGEL: Candy, I go back to my first answer that I gave Wolf a couple of minutes ago. This is a difficult business, and it's an unpredictable business. You prepare always for the worst; you hope for the best.

I don't think with 11 days now into this, it makes much sense to try to assign any kind of responsibility or blame. Did we know? Did we not know? Were we prepared? Were we unprepared?

This is for the long term. This is not about the first 11 days, this is about what's ahead here. We have major, major issues in front of us, battles in front of us. As many of us said before we got into this, what may well be the most complicated, dangerous part of this is after Saddam is gone. So we have to project out into the long-term.

So you don't win wars based on the first 11 days or two weeks. You plan for the long term, and I think that's what the Pentagon is doing. I have great confidence in our military leadership. And these people like Tommy Franks have been in war before, their commanders have.

The only caution I would give to our civilian leadership in the Pentagon is you better listen to these guys. I've been a little disturbed by the dismissive tone by some in the Bush administration's civilian leadership of commanders on the ground, saying, "Well, that's a very minute view of the war. That's a simplistic view. That's an isolated view."

Well, let me remind them, that's the view of where the soldiers are being killed and where they are doing the killing. You shouldn't dismiss that view.

CROWLEY: Well, Senator Hagel, I was going to show you some more poll numbers, but I need to follow this up for a second.

Are you specifically talking about Donald Rumsfeld, about the Pentagon secretary? Is he the civilian that's just missing the point of view?

HAGEL: Well, I'm not going to get into who said what. All I am doing is responding to your questions and giving perspective from an area that I have a little bit of experience in.

And when your battlefield commanders who are there, who are commanding the troops, in the middle of the battle, are saying certain things, the civilian leadership at the Pentagon must be very careful not to be publicly dismissive of that. They should listen to it carefully.

CROWLEY: Wolf, I promise I'm going to throw this back to you, but there was one more poll number that I want to show the senators. This was what would be better for the U.S., if Saddam Hussein was killed or if he was captured? 56 percent said it would be better for the U.S. if he was killed, 37 percent say if he's captured.

Rather than have you answer that question -- Senator Rockefeller, let me go to you -- what should happen to Saddam Hussein? Do you think there are orders out there, "Look, let's get him if we can," or do you think they want to capture him?

ROCKEFELLER: My guess on that -- and Senator Hagel and I know something about those matters -- is that capturing him would probably not be the right way to go.

I think that one of our problems is that the fear factor emanating from Hussein and his type of leadership, as evidenced through the Fedayeen in the south of the country, is really strong. And if he goes, if he disappears and is gone, people will come to know that rather quickly. And then I think is when you begin to get the beginning of a real weakening within the Republican Guard and the rest of it.

CROWLEY: Wolf, let me toss this back to you with the two senators.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy, and I'll pick it up where you left off with Senator Rockefeller.

What do you know now about the whereabouts, the capability, the health, if you will, of Saddam Hussein?

ROCKEFELLER: You asked that to me? I'll take a crack at it.

BLITZER: Go ahead. I was -- go ahead.

ROCKEFELLER: Nobody knows for sure, and I think what we're doing is we're trying in every way possible, within the rules of engagement and international law, that we're trying to pursue targets of opportunity wherever they may be. And so far, he has not been apparently one that we have achieved.

BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, does that include these reports of hit teams out there, trying to assassinate the Iraqi leader and indeed the top leadership of Iraq? Is that OK for the U.S. intelligence community to be engaged in that kind of warfare?

ROCKEFELLER: As I indicated before, in battle and in war, you have to do what you can to win, but you've got to do it by the rules. And we are doing that and will continue to do that. And beyond that, I don't think there's probably a whole lot to be said.

BLITZER: Senator Hagel, how good is U.S. intelligence right now, as far as what's happening inside the Iraqi leadership?

HAGEL: Well, we don't have all the pieces, as Senator Rockefeller said. We have many.

I think a good answer to your question about the accuracy of our intelligence can go back to 11 days ago when this war started, with the bombing of a bunker where we had very good intelligence that Saddam Hussein, his two sons and a number of his top leadership were residing at the moment. So, we have good intelligence, but it is always in war imperfect. This is a very clever adversary we're up against. He moves around. He has a good network of intelligence people.

So intelligence drives warfare, it drives battle. And ours is as good as any system in the world. But it is imperfect, as always intelligence is.

ROCKEFELLER: And also, intelligence is analysis, not policy, and that's the way it's meant to be.

BLITZER: Was there too much hope that the air campaign, the so- called shock and awe campaign, was going to effectively demoralize and destroy the Iraqi leadership early on, Senator Rockefeller, and make this war go really quickly?

ROCKEFELLER: I think so. I mean, that's my general intuition, Wolf, that we're like that as a people, that we like to see things happen very quickly. You know, where's Osama? What happened to Saddam? We want to know the answers, and the shock and awe would have appealed to us. I don't think that it created the shock and awe in Iraq that was expected. And again, this is day number 11. I mean, you can't say that enough.

The military is going to adjust. I hope that the civilian leadership will allow that adjustment to be taken. We may need a pause for several days to let things catch up, let people get rested. I don't have any doubt about the outcome of this war, and I'm not going to second-guess it, except where I have specific reason to.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to leave it right there.

Senator Rockefeller, thanks very much. Senator Hagel, thanks to you as well. Appreciate both of you spending a few moments with us here on LATE EDITION.

Candy, back to you.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

Back to those blazes in Baghdad that we've been following. Two reported fires lit up the nighttime sky.

CNN's Rula Amin is watching all of this from the Jordanian town of Ruashid (ph), not far from the Iraqi border. She joins us now live -- Rula.

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Candy, those two huge fireballs, in the beginning it was told they were a result of a huge explosion. However, Al-Jazeera Arab satellite channel went to the site, and they said that this was a fire as a result of a huge oil trench.

Now, it's not clear whether the Iraqis had set it on fire or a missile hit it, but the huge fire seems to be contained, because we saw cars driving by back and forth very close to where that fire is raging. At the same time, raids are still going on in Baghdad. The bombing continues. It seems that it has even intensified. We are hearing reports of big explosions all around town. We also saw anti- aircraft fire in the sky in the last hour.

At the same time, the Iraqi leadership is still defiant. Today, we heard from the Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, who called the U.S. troops invaders, racists. He said he doesn't understand how can the U.S. claim that it is doing this for the sake of the Iraqi people when it's causing so much destruction and killing even among civilians.

An Iraqi military spokesman, Hazem Al-Rawi (ph), had also this to say in regards to Iraq's insistence that they can use any tactic to fight the U.S. troops back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAZEM AL-RAWI (through translator): They are already carrying out serious crimes and very grave crimes, continuous crimes. And the jihad came only as a reaction to their crimes. We did not start the aggression, we did not go to America or London. But they came, so we have to expel them out at any price.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMIN: Now, the Iraqis are trying very hard, the Iraqi government, is trying very hard to undermine the U.S. message that this is a war between the U.S. and the Iraqi regime. They want to rally the people behind the government. They want the public to take part in the fight. That's why their message is very clear and consistent that the U.S. is here to occupy Iraq, to control the Iraqi people. And that's their way in order to give people an incentive to take part in the battle.

CROWLEY: Rula, let me ask you a question along a slightly different line, because I know how well you know Iraq, and Baghdad in particular. Can you give us any sense -- we hear a lot from U.S. civilian and military people that they don't think that Saddam Hussein is in charge of his military, that they do think the structure there is beginning to crumble.

Do you see any signs of that from where you are now, or before you left? Or does it look pretty much the same to you?

AMIN: Well, it's very hard to verify from here. However, it does seem that he is still in control. At least we can see that from the reaction of the people on the streets. We haven't seen anybody rising against him yet. We haven't seen people speaking against him, to cameras or to journalists who are in Baghdad.

At the same time, you can hear Iraqi officials who have been appearing, whether on Iraqi television or on Arab satellite channels. They seem very confident. It seems they are as well have been surprised by the level of resistance they have been able to put to the U.S. forces, and they keep on saying that they still have more, they have not even started yet, that most of the battles that are taking place now, most of the time it's tribes, it's regular people who are taking part of it, and that their main resources to fight back, the Republican Guards, the Fedayeen, have not even been used yet.

So the confidence that is coming from those officials doesn't really indicate that he is losing control -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks very much, Rula Amin, along the border very near the border with Iraq, now in Jordan.

Wolf, back to you in Kuwait.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy.

There's another reporter we have that's not far away from the Iraqi border himself, Gary Tuchman's in an airbase here in the Persian Gulf, he's joining us now live.

I ask you this question every night, Gary, and I assume it's true tonight. Pretty busy night at that airbase? A lot of air activity?

TUCHMAN: Wolf, as busy as any night. This is the 12th night of the campaign. The air campaign at this base alone, they have had roughly 3,000 sorties from here to Iraq. Overall, from all the bases, the approximate number we've figured out to this point: about 17,000.

As we speak, one of those 17,000 is taking off, heading for Iraq.

Keep in mind -- I hope you can still hear me, because it is a little loud.

BLITZER: Of course.

TUCHMAN: But keep in mind, when we say the number is 17,000, that's 17,000 separate coalition aircraft that have flown over the territory of Iraq, and the Air Force says that has taken place without one Iraqi aircraft going to the sky.

And officials here say that Iraq still has at least 300 fighters on the ground.

Now behind me are the A-10 Warthogs. Those are the planes that provide close air support for the troops on the ground. There are a lot of them at this particular base.

A short time ago, we talked with a pilot of one of the A-10s, who as we speak is going on a mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: It's only a matter of time, probably, before you head to Baghdad. How do you feel about that?

SINJIN (ph): Well, I think it's obvious for the guys that are flying out there that, as we get closer to Baghdad, it's more of a populated area, that the challenge of targetting the right enemy forces, and not inflicting collateral damage is going to get more difficult, and obviously I think, as we get closer to Baghdad, it's more well-protected, and that's the idea, is to try to beat those down.

So I think the game is going to pick up a level as we get closer to Baghdad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: That pilot, Major Sinjin (ph), has been on 10 different missions in the last 12 days.

To tell you a little bit about the pilots, they go to a lounge not too far from where we're standing before they fly. They actually always -- don't always know what time they're leaving. They're told to get to the lounge at a certain time and wait around for the time they're supposed to fly. So they could be sitting there for a couple of hours.

So what they do while they get ready, they watch the news sometimes, they watch movies on a big-screen TV, sometimes they take a snooze in an easy chair. But as soon as they get the call, they have to be on that plane right away, and they get this laser-like focus as they strap on their seatbelt, heading to the cockpit to fly over Iraq.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Gary, I get the impression these pilots are not getting eight hours of sleep every night.

TUCHMAN: I'll tell you, they may be getting five or six hours, but it's not all in a row. They catch it when they can.

BLITZER: Gary Tuchman, he's at an air base not far from the Iraqi border, a very busy air base, and that air base is clearly going to get busier in the days to come.

Gary, thanks very much.

Much more coverage of the war, including the latest explosions heard in Baghdad, all of that is coming up, and we'll also have the view from Northern Iraq, as U.S. warplanes target Iraqi positions in that area. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Even as we're covering the war in Iraq, there seems to be continued warfare unfolding in Afghanistan. The Associated Press reporting now only within the past few minutes that a rocket, or rockets, have slammed into an area near the U.S. Embassy in the capital Kabul, an area that's the headquarters of the international peacekeeping force in the Afghan capital.

There are about 5,000 international peacekeepers in Kabul, in and around Kabul. No word yet from local Afghan police about the extent of injuries or damage. But this just coming in, a rocket has slammed into the headquarters of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. We're going to continue to monitor this story.

Obviously an important story, even as the war goes on in Iraq, and a reminder that perhaps the war in Afghanistan, the war against terror there, is not yet over.

We'll monitor that story. Meantime, more air strikes reported today in northern Iraq. The coalition has been pounding targets on that front in an attempt to drive back Iraqi forces.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has more on the kind of opposition the allies are facing in that region.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bombs fall on the long and rugged northern front. While targets in and around the city of Mosul continue to take a pounding.

Intensified coalition bombardment, signaling mounting pressure on the Iraqi army's forward positions in the north. But in places that pressure seems to have missed the mark.

In Kalak, craters suggest all those bombs' high-explosive punch did little more than rearrange rocks on the hillside, well below Iraqi trenches.

And when planes aren't flying overhead, Iraqi soldiers don't appear to be particularly alarmed. Well away from the front, U.S. paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade are settling into their new surroundings and await the arrival of heavier equipment.

Other Americans have gone into action in the north, helping Kurdish fighters pursue the Islamist radicals in Ansar Al-Islam, a hardline group that's been linked to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

Here, at least, resistance was overcome. Despite the appearance of the war moving to the north, the coalition is far from having all its pieces in place here.

According to Kurdish intelligence sources, there are more than 120,000 Iraqi soldiers arrayed in the north. The latest estimate for the number of U.S. troops here is 1/100th of that.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Kalak, northern Iraq.

BLITZER: Multiple explosions heard over the past hour or so in Baghdad, explosions that will result in some serious fires which we saw in the Iraqi capital.

Also, bombings continue in the north and elsewhere in Iraq. We're monitoring all these developments here in the Persian Gulf. In the meantime, let's go back to Washington and Candy Crowley. Candy?

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf. President Bush is expected to return this afternoon to Washington from Camp David. We want to bring in our CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, who is following the commander in chief. She joins us now from the White House.

Suzanne, he's been out of sight, but I wager not out of touch.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Candy. He is back from Camp David, he is back at the White House. After military officials hitting those Sunday talk shows really it is all about managing the message and managing expectations.

Senior administration officials today making the case that the war is progressing as it should be, that the most difficult and dangerous elements of the war has yet to come, but that it is a conflict that is justified.

We heard from Secretary Rumsfeld as well as General Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, both of them denying these reports that they have differences in the war plan, both of them emphasizing, saying that the United States will attack the enemy at a time and place of its choosing.

Also emphasizing it is a plan that is flexible and adaptable and that troops as well as supplies are well on their way to Baghdad, as they should be.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUMSFELD: So we don't have the refugees, we don't have a humanitarian crisis. These oil fields have not yet been burned. In fact, the British forces are today securing the bulk of those southern oil fields. So a lot of good things have happened, and a lot of bad things were avoided, because General Franks decided to put forces on the ground fast and early.

I think it's important to remind ourselves that what the world is seeing is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, television news on this subject. It's been going on nine days.

It's a little early for post-mortems. It's a little early to write history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, despite some of the resistance from the Iraqis, some setbacks on the battlefield, not setbacks in the polls, although most Americans think that the White House perhaps a little bit too optimistic about this.

The latest CNN/Time poll showing, the question being, was the government too optimistic about the way before it started? Fifty-five percent say yes, and 38 percent say no.

Now Monday, the president is going to be traveling to the port of Philadelphia. That's where he's going to be emphasizing the progress on the homeland front, homeland security. He's going to be traveling with the Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

They are going to be highlighting what is called Operation Liberty Shield. They're going to be talking about the importance of the Coast Guard in protecting the home front -- Candy.

CROWLEY: Suzanne, let me ask you, there has been some sense, and I think you can maybe hear it in the Pentagon secretary's voice, that the White House or the Bush administration is sort of a little bit losing the PR war. Is there any sense of that from within, that perhaps this is going a lot better than is being portrayed?

MALVEAUX: Well, I have to tell you, Candy, one of the reasons the president has been so public, he's been so forthcoming, the reason why we've seen so many Pentagon officials hitting all of those talk shows today, is they really want to get ahead of this propaganda war.

There were a lot of questions that came up within the first 10 days of the campaign, even criticism about it. The administration seeing the need to really jump ahead. They want to go into this next week fully prepared. They've answered these questions. They really feel as if everything is -- it's premature to ask these questions.

And also again stressing that this is a plan that is flexible, that it's adaptable, that you will see the ebb and flow. You will see this change, that it is something that is expected in war time but does not necessarily mean that this has all gone wrong.

CROWLEY: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Thanks very much, Suzanne.

It is called a major blow to terrorism in northern Iraq. We'll check in with our military desk when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We want to update you on that report coming out of Kabul. Two rockets, apparently, have now hit the Afghan capital, according to the Associated Press. We've got these pictures just coming in to CNN. This is the headquarters of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. It's located right across the street from the U.S. embassy in Kabul. No word yet on the extent of injuries or damage, but more information, of course, is coming in.

Once again, according to the AP, two rockets have now slammed into the Afghan capital. One of them, apparently, hitting the international peacekeepers' headquarters in Kabul. There's some 5,000 international peacekeepers still in Afghanistan, mostly in and around Kabul.

We'll follow this story, we'll get more. In the meantime, back to Candy in Washington.

CROWLEY: Thanks very much, Wolf.

U.S. and Kurdish officials say they have struck a major blow against terrorism in northern Iraq. That's where an alleged terrorist camp has been found and destroyed. For that, we're going to turn to CNN's Miles O'Brien at the map table with our military analyst, General Don Shepperd.

Gentlemen.

O'BRIEN: Thanks very much, Candy.

Let's get our viewers situated to the precise place we're talking about. It's right here in the northeastern portion of Iraq, southeast is Sulumania (ph). And this part of the world is very rugged country. It's not the open desert that we've seen in the south. It's more akin to what you've seen in Afghanistan, isn't it?

SHEPPERD: It is indeed. Rugged mountain, and also many caves and underground facilities, here, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's use our EarthViewer.com to get a quick view of the lay of the land there, as we zoom on in toward the area very near Halabja. That's a name you should know by now. Halabja, 15 years ago the site where the Iraqis, under the Saddam Hussein regime, gassed thousands of Kurds using a nerve agent. This is that valley around there. Very, very steep mountains all around this area as we zoom in and head up toward the mountains where this alleged terrorist camp is. You'll see what we're a talking about here, obviously a natural protection for them, these steep mountains.

Along the top there, you'll see a yellow line. That's the border line with Iran. As we move closer to the camp, we'll give you a sense of that. An obvious hiding place for a terrorist camp, isn't it?

SHEPPERD: It is indeed. A training camp as well as a terrorist camp. Reports that perhaps chemical and/or biological weapons developed here. Some of the ricin that showed up in the United Kingdom could have come, and probably did come, from this area, according to intelligence sources.

General Franks in his CENTCOM briefing today described this as a huge camp. Lots of intelligence, including a laptop computer, seized here and being exploited as we speak.

O'BRIEN: Somewhere in that area. Let's tell you about one of the tools that the Pentagon used. They used the local Kurdish Peshmerga (ph), those who fight death, on the ground, but they also used this AC-130 gunship. Want to tell you a little bit about it. This is one way it works, in conjunction with an unmanned Predator drone getting some data to it.

Tell us. Take it away, Don Shepperd.

SHEPPERD: Well, the Predator can relay information to the AC- 130, as can other things, to get its eyes on the target. This is an AC-130 gunship. You have the Spectre and the Spooky. This we're going to show you is the Spooky. On the left is a 105-millimeter howitzer, just like the Army has, only mounted in an airplane, very powerful gun. To the right of that is a 40-millimeter Boufers (ph) cannon, and then this gun that we're looking at right here is a 25-millimeter gun. This is in the Spooky, the AC-130U model. The Spectre has similar weapons, however, it does not have this Gatling gun in it, the 25 millimeter...

O'BRIEN: The idea, using that in concert -- may or may not have used the Predator in this case. The point is, it can put a tremendous amount of firepower down into the ground in a very concentrated place.

SHEPPERD: And very accurately. The Spooky U (ph) model can do it through the clouds. The H, not as well.

O'BRIEN: In Vietnam, they called it Puff the Magic Dragon.

SHEPPERD: Puff the Magic, right, indeed.

O'BRIEN: All right, here is the stats on it. We told you about the cannons. It always fires from the left hand side. The commander, the pilot is the one who's actually pulling trigger. SHEPPERD: He is. There's actually three people that can sit. The pilot and two others can sit in the fire chain here. Very, very accurate weapon system.

O'BRIEN: All right.

Don Shepperd, thanks very much.

Candy.

CROWLEY: Thank you very much. We are going to take a break now. However, at the top of the hour, we will be back with all the top stories. Stick with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Good afternoon. It's just after 10:00 p.m. here in Kuwait City, 2:00 p.m. in New York City, where the news is being made this Sunday March 30th.

Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live tonight from Kuwait City.

Coming up this hour, bombs over Baghdad, the Iraqi capital city once again under siege of coalition airstrikes. A live report. That's just minutes away.

CROWLEY: From CNN studios in Washington, I'm Candy Crowley. Also this hour, war stories, looking toward tomorrow with veterans from the past. My conversations with decorated combat vets coming up.

O'BRIEN: And from CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Miles O'Brien. Also coming up this hour, in search of the paramilitary. What coalition forces have to go through to make Iraqi towns and villages safe. That story coming up from our Martin Savidge, but, before we do that, let's get back to Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait City.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Miles.

Let's get everyone caught up right now on what's happening in the war in Iraq, from north to south.

First, let's go to the north, and the town of Kalak (ph). Massive airstrikes target a ridge early today, as coalition troops try to dislodge Iraqi forces. Our Ben Wedeman on the scene. He's reporting that Iraqis in trenches are armed with heavy mortars and anti-aircraft guns.

To southern Iraq, in Nasiriyah. U.S. Marines there appear to have secured the southern bank of the Euphrates River, but Iraqi troops are on the north bank. And CNN's Art Harris reports heavy fighting between the two sides.

Further south in Basra, British Royal Marines capture five high- ranking Iraqi leaders, including a general. The British also destroyed a television tower and wall-sized concrete images of President Saddam Hussein. In the capital, Baghdad, we've been hearing explosions all day and now all night, seeing antiaircraft fire, smoke, and additional fire, watching it all from the Jordanian town of Ruashiv (ph), our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson. He's of course now in Jordan, but he spent months earlier in Baghdad.

Nic, what's the latest?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, reporters in Baghdad say that this has been one of the heaviest days of bombardment in the city, explosions and detonations towards the south of the city. That's the direction towards which coalition forces are massing about 50 miles south of the city.

Also, reporting there are explosions and detonations in the eastern part of the city, and Iraqi officials are saying that in the Karada (ph) district -- this is an area of shops and residential area, quite close to the center of Baghdad -- Iraqi officials say there have been some detonations and explosions there.

And we've also been seeing some -- what appear to be large oil fires quite close to the center of Baghdad. What is not clear at this stage is whether these oil fires were started intentionally, by Iraqi officials. Closer pictures seem to indicate that they are quite long, trench-like fires, and we do know that Iraqi officials had been using such oil fires to put smokescreens, if you will, over the city, to try and hamper coalition air activities. Or whether -- and this is why we're not clear -- or whether this is a fuel depot that has been hit. Iraqi officials so far say some 589 people have been killed, and they say over 4,500 have been injured.

ROBERTSON: Those figures have been very difficult to verify, if not impossible. However, earlier in the day, CNN spoke with officials from the International Committee for the Red Cross. They say they've been over to visit some of those hospitals, and they say that they're able to corroborate to a degree the figures Iraqi officials are giving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been to those first-line ones regularly to find out that the numbers that have been put out by hospital sources were usually absolutely correct, according to our own findings.

If we make a kind of average after the first week or so of conflict, it comes to about an average of 100 casualties per day. Most of them need wound excisions or superficial surgery, but there is also a good number, a good percentage, that were in need of much more serious intervention than surgical operations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Now, these Red Cross officials say that Iraq seems to have enough medical supplies at the moment to continue treating its wounded. The International Committee for the Red Cross saying they've not been requested for huge donations at this stage.

A member of the International Committee for the Red Cross there also said that the people that they're seeing in the hospital are a mixture of women, children, and men. He said mostly this indicated to him that they were civilians. He said perhaps some policemen in there. But he did point out in the hospitals that he is visiting, these are not the hospitals where military casualties are taken to. They are taken elsewhere, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, when I interviewed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, a couple of hours ago live here on CNN, he said Iraqi television was definitely a legitimate U.S. military target. He said they're trying to knock the Iraqi television off the air, but the Iraqis have come up with a lot of redundancy. They've got some pretty good capability. At the same time, they don't want to kill civilians unnecessarily.

As far as you can tell from your monitoring post where you are, Iraqi television is still pretty robust and still pretty much doing what it always does, it's on the air?

ROBERTSON: It's still back on the air, and it's still able to broadcast what Iraqi officials want it to broadcast. It's not being jammed. If it's been damaged physically, the location has been moved or the transmitters rebroadcast on other transmitters.

Also, what we're seeing is that Iraq's satellite station, while it was taken down, I think, Friday, it was back up on the air on Saturday.

Certainly, Iraqi officials, and they've said this many times, that they've seen the war coming, thought it was coming, spent a long time preparing for it, and they're certainly well aware of what they need to do to keep themselves on the air.

And this is a very essential instrument for them to continue to inform the Iraqi people about what they say is happening in this conflict, and that reaffirms to the Iraqi people that the leadership is still firmly in place.

And, of course, coalition planners believe that once the Iraqi people believe the Iraqi leadership is crumbling, then people will rise up against the Iraqi leadership. So, clearly, this is very central to the Iraqi authorities at this time in any way, shape, or form to stay on the air, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nic Robertson, thanks very much. Nic is along the border between Iraq and Jordan right now.

Miles, let me throw it back to you in the CNN news room.

O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much, Wolf.

Let's check in with Major General Don Shepperd, retired U.S. Air Force, and get a quick situation report for the folks. For those of you just tuning in, to give you a sense of what's going on north to south in Iraq right now.

You know, before we get started, though, I want to ask you one thing. Clearly, this term pause, much debated, does not apply to the air war. When you talk about any, if there is a pause, it's on the ground, correct?

SHEPPERD: The air war goes on 24 hours a day, and the purpose of the air war right now, most of the sorties, the flights, are devoted to hitting the Republican Guard units and softening them up for the ground operations to come.

O'BRIEN: All right. To that end, let's talk about what's going on in the north. There's been apparently a tactical retreat by some of these Iraqi divisions here, perhaps hunkering down maybe for a fight over Kirkuk, maybe ultimately for Tikrit, we don't know.

Why do you suppose they're retrenching? Do you have any thoughts?

SHEPPERD: I think probably they know that Kirkuk is the major prize here in the northern part of the country because of the oil fields. They know the 173rd is up here now, the 70,000 Kurd fighters, they know Special Operations is up here, so they're probably retrenching from their very forward areas back to more consolidated positions, would be a guess.

O'BRIEN: All right. Of course, ultimately Tikrit, it being the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, would be something that would be heavily defended, as well.

As we move toward Baghdad, talking about these targets. Once again, the targets are regime targets, places where those close to Saddam Hussein might be.

Obviously, as these targeteers, that's the term for the people who pick the sites, go through, they're being very careful to avoid civilian casualties. But it gets harder as time goes on.

SHEPPERD: It does get harder as time goes on, and also they are hitting emerging targets now. The targets that emerge from which the leadership is talking and broadcasting, for instance.

Other intelligence will lead them to believe that they've moved to different locations. They're also hitting the living quarters of the leadership. All that's going on in Baghdad and it looks like it's going on around the clock, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. Still a lot of debate as to the civilian casualties, what the source of those explosions were. Nothing definitive just yet. I'm talking about that market explosion, the one near the hospital as well, both of them causing numerous civilian casualties. Unclear yet whether that is linked to the bombing campaign or whether it was anti-aircraft fire.

SHEPPERD: Could be coalition, could be anti-aircraft fire, could be surface to air missiles fired by the Iraqis. We probably won't know until well after the war.

O'BRIEN: All right. Don Shepperd, thanks very much.

SHEPPERD: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Candy.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Miles.

A lot of action from the air. Some dispute on what's going on on the ground. Here to sort out what's what, at least as the Pentagon sees it, is CNN's Patty Davis -- Patty.

DAVIS: Well, Candy, the U.S. military making the rounds on those Sunday talk shows today, saying the war with Iraq remains on plan. Now, the Joint Chiefs Chairman General Richard Myers, here on CNN's LATE EDITION just a short time ago, said that there is one target that they have been unsuccessful in bringing down, and that is Iraqi television. But he says that the U.S. military is gunning for it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MYERS: We're working on that. We understand some of the TV is up, some is down. Radio broadcasts are more sporadic. It's a fairly robust infrastructure inside Iraq, and it will take some time.

Clearly, they use that television for propaganda. They use it for command and control. And it's one of our targets. You know very well, from knowing some of the target sets that have been struck up in Baghdad, that, indeed, that is one of our objectives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: Coalition forces now within 50 miles of Baghdad. And Myers said that a lot of the strikes today are focusing on Iraqi artillery and other units that could pose threats with chemical weapons for the coalition troops.

Now, Myers also revealing that the U.S. attacked a point in northeastern Iraq, with the help of the Kurds, a large complex with underground tunnels. Myers said that the military believes that this was a site possibly where the Ricin that was found in London came from, or at least the operatives.

Now, it's very interesting. He said that the enemy bodies that were recovered were not Iraqi. They were not Iranian. The military believes that they were, in fact, al Qaeda. Candy?

CROWLEY: Patty, how do they make these judgments on the scene? Do they call back -- how much talk is there between people at the Pentagon, particularly the civilian leadership that we heard talked about earlier, and those on the scene?

DAVIS: The judgments about targets or the judgments about what they're finding?

CROWLEY: Both.

DAVIS: Certainly, there's a lot of talk back and forth. Of course, command and control there at Central Command, they're calling the shots. But the generals certainly are in touch with planners here at the Pentagon as well as U.S. Central Command. Candy?

CROWLEY: Thanks very much, Patty Davis at the Pentagon.

Now to central Iraq where coalition troops have the difficult task of trying to win the trust of Iraqis while fighting paramilitary forces often wearing civilian clothing. Our Martin Savidge is with the U.S. marines in that area.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What they wanted to do was get out into the villages. We went on one patrol starting before the sun came up, moving in on one village that was nearby. Villages that not necessarily suspected, but possibly could be harboring or offering havens to these paramilitary units.

We got there just as the sun was rising up. It was a combination of marines in armored personnel carriers and marines also on foot closing on that village.

It wasn't exactly the welcome wagon rolling in, initially. Things were tense. Obviously, they were prepared for anything they might encounter. But lo and behold, it did sort of become the welcome wagon.

First thing the marines did, through an interpreter, was try to find the village elder, or the man who was the senior in charge there. They found him. The man assured the marines that there were no longer any paramilitary units there. In fact, he said all of the paramilitary units seemed to have fled some days earlier. After that, it became smiles, handshakes, and broken conversation in mixed English and Arabic. But one of the things that quickly became clear is that there is a definite humanitarian need within this small village. According to the people who live there, about five days ago Iraqi soldiers shut down the nearby water pumping station, and that's left them in a very dire circumstance. No water coming in, no fresh water at least.

They say the children in the village are growing sick from drinking water in just nearby culverts or coming out of old and stagnant ponds. So the marines have stepped in. They are now going to take some of these villagers nearby to that pumping station under guards, so that they aren't harmed by Iraqis who may be still in this area, and try to get the water flowing again.

So what started off as a search-and-destroy mission turned into a humanitarian mission, and it's very clear the Marines want it to go this way, because, if they can keep the villagers, if they can keep the people of Iraq comfortable with their presence, and realize that, as they say, they're only here to help, it'll make the fight against Baghdad that much easier, if you don't have to fight all your way to get there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: CNN's Martin Savidge, embedded with the First Battalion, 7th Marines, somewhere in central Iraq.

We're now going to take you back to Kuwait City and Wolf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Candy.

The U.S. commander who lost four soldiers in an Iraqi suicide bomb attack says roads will be closed to civilians in the future, to protect coalition troops.

This is new video, just in to CNN from that bombing site. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been fleeing the combat zones around cities such as Najaf and Basra, for areas further from the fighting.

The suicide bomber struck on Saturday, when he drove a car close to a coalition roadblock just north of Najaf and waved to American troops to come closer. He blew up his vehicle when they approached, killing four soldiers from the Third Infantry Division.

Still to come this hour, a battle in Basra, and five high-ranking Iraqi paramilitary leaders now in custody. Will coalition forces be able to get any information from them?

Also ahead, minefields 101, and how to get through them in one piece. Our Richard Blystone on the ever-present threat to coalition troops in Iraq.

And a little bit later, war expectations: is the U.S. military where it needs to be right now? And will the time line for war go into the summer? That story from our Aaron Brown, as CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: These are live pictures coming from Baghdad right now. The Iraqi capital has been rocked with more explosions over the past few hours. More U.S. bombing raids, several explosions struck the Iraqi capital. There are also large oil-filled trenches ablaze, presumably the Iraqis trying to smoke up in the skies to protect themselves from more U.S. air strikes.

We're watching what's happening in Baghdad. We're watching what's happening around the country, including in the south where British forces are once again engaged in a battle for control of the second-largest city in Iraq, Basra. Some key Iraqi military leaders have been captured, including, we're told, a general.

CNN's senior international correspondent Christiane Amanpour reports from southern Iraq.

AMANPOUR: I'm actually on the road to Basra, and we can confirm, yes, that the British -- a 42 Commando raid from the British Royal Marines did take on both Iraqi infantry and tanks. It's an ongoing operation, and we actually saw many of them take off in their helicopters to go over there and get into that battle.

They did capture, we are told, five senior Iraqi officers, including a general, and we are told they killed one Iraqi colonel from the Republican Guard.

Now, at the same time, of course, humanitarian aid is a big issue here, and trying to get, just get water piped to the people is a major priority.

We are in Umm Qasr earlier this morning, and we did see the first water gushing from that pipeline which has been extended from Kuwait now into southern Iraq.

We saw the water go into tankers and start to be taken around town. But it's getting off to a slow start because there's confusion amongst the people about whether they're meant to pay for it or not.

The tanker drivers say they want money, the people don't want to pay. The U.S. says they're not meant to pay. The British say they are meant to pay.

So it's a bit of a confusion at the moment, and probably highlights the difficulty for military personnel to take on humanitarian work. This is generally the work of NGOs and the U.N. and the like, but, of course, they are not here during this war.

Now, in other warfare, the psychological warfare continues, the British trying to use all means at their disposal to break the influence of Saddam Hussein on the people.

So what they've done is they have gone in on several occasions, they tell us, and we have some pictures from one of these occasions, they've gone in to smash, they tell us, statues of Saddam and also to smash murals.

They're trying to deface any kind of image and influence of Saddam Hussein. It's not at all sure whether this tactic will work in terms of breaking the political influence and control.

Certainly, we haven't seen any reaction that would suggest that it's giving the people space to rise up. Of course, the British also tell us that they took out a TV tower in Basra, thus trying to prevent the Baghdad regime from talking to the people of Basra.

A little bit more on the humanitarian situation. They have tried to get, and they are getting, humanitarian aid into one of the cities, towns really, just north of here, and they're hoping that that will be a preview to what they're trying to do also to get aid into Basra.

But they have not yet started to do that.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, reporting from southern Iraq, not far from Basra herself. Thanks, Christiane, very much.

Let's move to the north now where massive coalition air strikes target a ridge above the city of Kalak as tens of thousands of people flee the area. CNN's Jane Arraf is there. She's joining us now -- Jane.

ARRAF: Wolf, we're hearing the sound of planes here and explosions, actually, in the direction of Kirkuk, the major oil town. Now, the Iraqi front lines in the north appear to be shifting.

Earlier today Kurdish forces have taken over positions vacated by Iraqi troops. Now, that brings Kurdish Peshmerga, those guerrilla fighters, to about 25 kilometers from the city of Kirkuk.

Now, they probably will stay there. This is not a northern offensive, it is not a northern assault, it is just Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces moving into that territory closer to the front line that Iraqi forces have withdrawn from as they appear to be retreating closer to Kirkuk.

As you mentioned, extensive bombing in Kirkuk and in Mosul, which we're closer to. We have been hearing the sound of explosions and of planes.

Correspondents in Mosul reporting that there has been heavy bombing throughout the day, as well. Now, again, this is not the northern offensive. That would have to wait for more U.S. troops to come in. As of now, at the Harir (ph) airfield, fairly close to here, there are only about 2,000 as of yesterday.

That included the airborne troops parachuted in four days ago, as well as more forces continuing to be built up. But still they don't have the equipment, the troops, or the heavy artillery that they would actually need. Wolf?

BLITZER: That Harir (ph) airfield, are planes landing fairly regularly? Is it ready for traffic at this point? ARRAF: It is. Absolutely ready for traffic. It was simply an airstrip, but it's long enough to accommodate the biggest of the transport planes.

And we have seen there C-17s and C-130s. Those are big enough to carry tanks, actually. So the planes have been landing under the cover of darkness, at night.

They've been unloaded in the dark for security reasons by soldiers wearing night vision goggles, and it's quite a remarkable sight seeing this all happen.

In the daytime, we're seeing more and more troops around there, some of them venturing into the town of Harir (ph), where they pass by with children waving at them.

Obviously, a very warm welcome for those troops. But as for the Kurdish military, they would very much like to see more of those. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jane Arraf in northern Iraq. Thanks, Jane, very much.

Let's go back to Candy Crowley in Washington. Candy?

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

Still to come this hour, voices of America. Our Maria Hinojosa is live in Philadelphia, site of one of today's anti-war rallies.

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it may be raining, it may be sleeting, it may be freezing on the streets of Philadelphia, but that hasn't prevented hundreds from coming out to say they're against this war.

More on the anti-war protests and those supporting President Bush after the break.

CROWLEY: Also this hour, war stories. My conversations with several combat veterans about their wars and how it applies to the one going on now, day 11.

You are watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: So far, anti-war tests have been at least publicly ignored by the White House, but that hasn't stopped the protesters from turning out once again this weekend.

CNN's Maria Hinojosa is at the scene of one of the largest demonstrations. She has this live update from Philadelphia.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Maria, I'm wondering if you're having trouble hearing me. It is very loud there. Can you hear me now? HINOJOSA: Rose, do we know...

CROWLEY: We're going to have to get back to her. As you can tell, Maria is having a lot of trouble with the crowd noise. Again, lots of demonstrations across the country. We will bring that to you as soon as we fix the sound problem.

Let's go now to Wolf in Kuwait City. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy. Let me update our viewers on what's happening right now in Baghdad, in case they're just tuning in. Over these past few hours, more explosions rock the Iraqi capital, especially in the outskirts. That's where U.S. officials say the Republican Guard is entrenched.

We've also seen a relatively new development, although it's happened once or twice before, these so-called oil trench fires which we believe are occurring now on the outskirts of Baghdad, although there might be an indication that perhaps an oil refinery was hit in one of the air strikes as well.

No easing up, no easing up on the pounding that the Iraqi capital is getting as well as other cities in Iraq where there are significant, significant U.S. strikes continuing as well.

We heard from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, just a couple of hours ago that about half of those strikes are now devoted to softening up, to undermining the elite Republican Guard divisions. There are six of them in and around Baghdad. They will be on the front lines if U.S. and British forces move in the coming days or weeks toward the Iraqi capital.

We're standing by for more on what's happening there, but let's go back to Candy now in Washington. Candy?

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf. We're going to try again to go to Philadelphia, where our Maria Hinojosa is battling both the natural elements of the weather and some man made elements of the sound. Maria, tell us about the protest.

HINOJOSA: Hi, Candy. Well, you know what? It's freezing cold, even though it's already spring. It's raining, even some sleet. But there are about 1,000 people who have come out here to Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, yet again another Saturday, another round of protests.

This one being coordinated by a very broad-based group, calling itself the Philadelphia Coalition Against the War. There are many people here who come from a lot of different organizations. One of the key players, though, is, of course, the Quakers.

And, Marlene Santoya (ph), you're with the Quakers. You're one of the key organizers here. I wanted to ask you, Marlene, you know, we know now that there are a lot of troops who are watching our coverage and they're watching the anti-war protests, and many of them are saying that they feel extraordinarily demoralized. What would you say to those troops who are probably watching you now, when they are taking the message that this is very demoralizing for them?

SANTOYA: What I would say is that I am very sorry that there are men and women who are there. I believe that the best thing that we all need to do is that we need to have conscience ourselves. The fact of the matter is that we know that the United States is not in danger from Iraq. And for us to be into another country is very unfortunate and very sad for me.

HINOJOSA: But what do you say to those young and men and women who are looking at you and saying, "Gosh, you should be writing letters to us and sending us care packages, not standing out here on the street saying that we shouldn't be in this war when the war is already happening."

SANTOYA: What I can say and what I do say is that this world and this country was bent upon dissent. This is the beginning of where we came from. We can go to the Vietnam War. We can go to so many times in this country, and we have to stand for what we believe, for our ideals, and for the essence of what it is to be an American.

HINOJOSA: OK. Thank you very much, Marlene Santoya.

I'm not sure whether or not that will, in fact, calm some of the concerns that the troops have who may be watching us. But here at least in Philadelphia, these people who have gathered here today -- I'm looking around at this crowd -- they're not going to let anything stop them from continuing to say that they're against this war.

So that's a testament to at least how strongly they believe and feel strongly about their beliefs. Candy?

CROWLEY: Thanks very much, Maria Hinojosa in CNN, coming to us from Philadelphia, a site of one of the anti-war demonstrations today across the country.

Still to come this hour, a needle in a haystack, finding and destroying landmines in Iraq before coalition troops find out about them the hard way. Our Richard Blystone and the challenge ahead.

Also ahead, imagine having to sleep in a tiny three-foot by three-foot space, always cleaning sand out of everything you own. One of our embedded reporters, Walter Rodgers, and his experiences on the road with coalition troops.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien at CNN Center in Atlanta, joined by General Don Shepperd, retired U.S. Air Force, and we're going to talk about what's been going on in Baghdad, specifically, the fires that we have been seeing. No matter what the Pentagon says about the ground invasion of Iraq, some debate as to whether there's a pause or not, it is absolutely irrefutable that the air war is going on in earnest, perhaps one of the busiest nights of bombing in Baghdad, we just witnessed, as a matter of fact, and what we have seen as a result, perhaps -- and also partially, perhaps, lit by the Iraqis -- is a tremendous number of fires.

Don Shepperd, what is the tactical, strategic reason to light oil fires in trenches?

SHEPPERD: Well, the idea behind this is that it obscures visual acuity, the eyeball, if you will, from seeing through this, to see where they move troops and things.

It also causes great discomfort to the people in the city there, and the fact that they are doing this indicates to me they misunderstand some things, and that is that the coalition has the ability to look through this smoke to see what it needs to see, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's take a look at this situation from 22,000 miles up, actually probably a little closer than that. One of our satellite imagery capabilities, with Earthsphere.com. This is an image that was taken before the war, back last year, and, as we toggle in one that was shot on March 27th, you'll see, very distinctly, in these corners, these oil fires. Now, that was March 27th when this was captured, in the morning in Baghdad.

Let's go back one more time, and show you what it was like before, and then let's bring it in one more time. You can see the oil fires, very distinct in two quadrants of the city.

We're told that the number of fires has actually increased tremendously since then. It's still not a problem, you say?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's a problem if you want to see through it visually, but then we have other means to look through it, as the coalition, beyond visual means, things such as Sidelooking, synthetic- aperture radars, also looking at different ends of the spectrum, we'll see right through this black smoke.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's look at an animation quickly, and give you a sense of how this might play out, as we look at this animation move along, here's a palace scenario, downtown Baghdad, if you will. You notice we've created a scenario with some smoke up in this part of the world. As we go through the smoke cloud, here comes an F-16, he's got a mission. What does he do?

SHEPPERD: All right.

First of all, he's looking down through this visually. He can't see through this visually, no question about that. On the other hand, someone underneath the smoke, or on a preplanned target, can relay the coordinates to him of a target underneath that.

O'BRIEN: So we're showing like a special operations group. They get down on the ground.

SHEPPERD: This is one way to do it.

O'BRIEN: Send a guy like this.

SHEPPERD: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And he's got what?

SHEPPERD: A vid. He's got a forward air controller, just as a laser designator measures distance to the target, it's then coordinated into coordinates that are sent upward to the airplane.

O'BRIEN: All right.

SHEPPERD: The airplane driver then types it into his JDAM or satellite-assisted munition, if you will, satellite-assisted bomb, and it's dropped on the target.

So there are ways around -- for any measure, there is a countermeasure, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right.

So, the simple answer is, smoke over a city may hinder it somewhat, but doesn't stop a bombing campaign.

SHEPPERD: Does not stop it. It hinders certain things, it doesn't hinder others. We've known about smoke, dust on the battlefields for a long period of time, and there are ways to work around it technologically.

O'BRIEN: All right. An airplane driver himself. Don Shepperd, thanks very much -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Miles and General Shepperd, always good to get your analysis.

Meanwhile, coalition front lines are rapidly advancing, but they bypassed a deadly threat that follow-up troops, aid workers, and civilians will have to deal with for years to come.

CNN's Richard Blystone explains there's trouble underfoot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): British Royal Engineers showing us at CNN Kuwait how not to fall prey to warfare's dirtiest trick, mines. The coalition says its forces aren't using mines now, but the Engineers say there may be ten million Iraqi-laid mines around Iraq. Mines newly planted, and others left over from Iraq's two wars in the last quarter-century.

British Engineers are charged with clearing living and working space in Southern Iraq for troops, aid workers, and Iraqi civilians, and marking off danger areas with signs that look uncomfortably like grave markers.

Not only mines, but unexploded munitions. They say one in every five bombs, bomblets, and artillery shells doesn't go off, and lies in wait, sometimes years, for the unwary or unlucky.

This team will be showing people how to spot danger and stay away from it, and, if you get caught in a minefield, how to get out in one piece.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After we've extracted, however long that may be, you're going to get civilian mine-clearance teams to come in and clear the area, and that could take years. Absolutely.

BLYSTONE: Mines are expensive to clear, but cheap to buy. Humanitarian organizations say there are 100 million of them planted around the world, and nine out of ten of the victims are civilians.

This exercise tells you not only about mines, it tells you what a blessing it is to live in a place where you don't have to watch every day where you're putting your feet.

Richard Blystone, CNN, Kuwait.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And those mines are going to be an enormous problem in the days, weeks, months, and probably years to come.

Candy, let's throw it back to you in Washington.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Wolf.

We are now 11 days into this war. I want to check public sentiment and see where people stand, for which we have CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, one of the things that has been going on in the past couple of days is this whole idea of, "Wow, we didn't think it would be this hard. We thought people would come out and greet us."

We've seen some soldiers say, "Gee this is harder than we thought." What do the American people think?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLIITICAL ANALYST: Well, the American people are inclined in a way to agree with that. The CNN/Time poll Thursday night asked people, was the U.S. government too optimistic in what it told the public was likely to happen in this war?

Most American people say yes, it was. The White House insists it weren't, but there were instances when Pentagon officials, and even Vice President Cheney predicted a short, decisive conflict where the U.S. would be welcomed as liberators.

Despite the upbeat talk from the White House, Americans are aware that this war is going to be longer and tougher than they originally believed or were led to believe.

What's striking is, that realization has had no discernible effect on public support for the war, which remains high. It's 70 percent. Why not?

Well, here's one reason. In a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll taken yesterday, two-thirds of Americans described the difficulties faced by U.S. troops in Iraq as minor setbacks, and another 11 percent said they were nothing to worry about.

Which means three-quarters of Americans think the problems the U.S. is facing in Iraq are no big deal. That's why people don't feel betrayed or misled by the administration's optimistic forecasts.

CROWLEY: I also noted there were huge numbers of people who said they did understand what this war was about. But is it about one man, really?

SCHNEIDER: Candy, more and more it is. The administration believes if the U.S. gets Saddam Hussein the war will end quickly. The very first strike was aimed at doing exactly that.

Would Americans consider it a victory if the U.S. achieves most of its goals in Iraq but does not capture or kill Saddam Hussein? Sixty-two percent say, no, and that's up from 54 percent last month.

Americans want him. They want him what? They want him killed in Iraq. Not captured and put on trial, not ousted, killed. Last week, a military spokesman said this war is not about one man.

But to the American public, more and more, it actually is.

CROWLEY: CNN's senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, thanks very much. Wolf, that is the view from the U.S. people at this point. Back to you in Kuwait.

BLITZER: Sounds familiar. With Osama bin Laden, as well. We can have that discussion with Bill Schneider on another occasion. Thanks very much, Candy and Bill.

For the first time, Americans are seeing a war from the front lines as it happens. Give credit to modern technology, as well as CNN correspondents who are embedded with coalition troops charging toward Baghdad.

Right now, let's get another close-up look from the front lines. Her name is Old Betsy, and she's just as tough, rugged, and resilient as any of the U.S. soldiers charging toward Baghdad this weekend.

Walter Rodgers has a look at how Betsy is helping CNN tell the story of the U.S. 7th Cavalry's long trek to the Iraqi capital.

RODGERS: We'd like to now show you what we call Old Betsy, a reused, second-hand U.S. Army Humvee that we've been traveling with through the desert for some time. This is Betsy that you're looking at now. Most of the Army soldiers look at this thing and say, "My God, what is that?" But what you're looking at has been a very serviceable vehicle which CNN bought for us second-hand in Kuwait City from a used car dealer who's been nicknamed King Hummer.

That a soft-skin vehicle you're looking at. Any bullet will pass through it, even a .22 caliber bullet.

You can see our body armor draped on the door at this time. If you look on the hood of the vehicle, you can see where I've been sleeping for several nights.

Most of the crew has been sleeping either in the seats inside the vehicle. I must say I find the inside of that vehicle the most painful part of this experience. I just can't sleep in there.

I'll throw a sleeping bag on the ground or climb into a hay mow (ph) or something like that. If Charlie can pan up a little, he'll show you the top of the vehicle, and that's the technical part of the gear which puts out our pictures.

When we have time, there's a fine satellite dish up there, which Jeff Barwise (ph), the engineer, has redeemed, brought back from death more than a few times. But that makes magic pictures fly through the air back to Atlanta and around the world. They're bringing you the best satellite pictures we've been able to send.

There's a videophone inside the vehicle, which enables us to broadcast live, poorer quality pictures, as we roll down the road. But everything you see in there has equipped four grown men with combat equipment, and this is what we've literally been living in for the last seven days, come under fire in.

As I say, it's absolutely remarkable Old Betsy hasn't taken a hit. But as the unit commander traveling with us, Lieutenant Colonel Terry Farrell, said this is a charmed unit. And that doesn't seem to be the case.

There is a patch of black tape or dark green tape towards the rear, which Charlie perhaps can focus on now. There are similar patches of tape on the hood and on the trunk, the boot of this vehicle. Those patches of tape are more than they appear. They indicate to the U.S. Air Force above that this is a friendly vehicle and that indeed it is not to be fired upon.

We're pretty safe against blue on blue, friendly fire, because we usually have a tank in front of us and a Bradley armored vehicle in back of us. Still, we are totally in the advance unit of this thing. We're never less than, oh, perhaps 400 yards back from the first vehicle as it's blazing away with its guns.

So we're at the tip of the tip of the sphere, and this is Old Betsy. And I must say she's been a very serviceable vehicle.

BLITZER: Good for Old Betsy, and thanks to Walter Rodgers and his team over there, his crew.

Candy, I don't think we can underscore how resilient, creative, and courageous these embedded reporters have been on the front lines. It's been a difficult experience but they're doing a remarkable job bringing us war coverage, literally, from right out there on the front lines -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It has been amazing. Whether they're awake or asleep, the danger's always there, obviously for the troops, but for these guys as well. It's been amazing to watch them.

Still to come this hour, tales from the front lines of wars gone by. My conversations with decorated combat veterans, what they remember, and what we could learn from them, as CNN's coverage of the war in Iraq continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: For many people, this war in Iraq triggers memories of other wars at other times, as I found out. Watching coalition troops battle for control of Iraq's cities has some prominent Americans revisiting their own combat experiences.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): They are, we are told, well trained.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a messy business. There's nothing very pretty about the training that you take to prepare you for combat, because it is to kill people.

CROWLEY: In the spring of 1970, a squad of U.S. soldiers spotted a small unit of Viet Cong it had been circling for days. Staff Sergeant Tom Ridge opened fire. A Viet Cong soldier dropped dead.

(on camera): Did you at the time, or have you since, looked back and pondered on killing someone?

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SEC.: Yes.

CROWLEY: And what's that like?

RIDGE: That's one of those introspective times where it's just -- it's just an introspective time, not a public time.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Duke Cunningham was a Vietnam fighter ace, shooting down five enemy planes. After his first, he returned to a shipdeck full of sailors and crew cheering, shaking his hand, pushing in to slap his back.

REP. DUKE CUNNINGHAM, FOUGHT IN VIETNAM: And one of the guys looked at me and says, "Duke, what's it like to kill somebody?" And all of a sudden, bang, it just hit me. You don't think about those things. And it's removed, it's far off, it's not in close.

And I went to the priest because it bothered me. I knew I could do it again, but I didn't know it was going to bother me as much as it did. And it still does.

CROWLEY: Of all the wounds time does not heal, the ones that fester deep in the soul are the wounds you inflict.

RIDGE: It's not something that civilized people do. You don't -- it's not a matter of being tormented, but troubled, in the sense that that's not what we do unless we're called upon to do it under the most extreme set of circumstances.

CROWLEY: War may sometimes be a necessary thing, but it can never be a natural thing. Training bridges that gap.

Sergeant Chuck Hagel was seriously wounded twice in Vietnam.

HAGEL: You are trained to kill people, because the alternative is if you are in combat, you will be killed. So your choices are not varied. It's very simple. And so you do what you're trained to do. You do what you're there to do. And in Vietnam, it was body count.

CROWLEY: Training is what keeps you running toward the front while trucks loaded with dead bodies pass you going the other way.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: It's hard to explain what training can do. Training sets your mind to respond, not to common sense and judgment, but to training. You really don't have time to think, "I'm going the wrong way. I should be going the other way."

CROWLEY: Later, when he was wounded and trapped behind enemy lines in Korea, Staff Sergeant Charlie Rangel led 40 men fighting their way to safety. He won a Bronze Star.

RANGEL: If you're killing people, it's out of fear, not really, in my opinion, out of bravery. Nobody's looking for medals. Everyone wants to live another day.

CROWLEY: Do not misunderstand. Rangel, Cunningham, Ridge and Hagel are all proud, decorated combat veterans. It's just that decades later, killing still troubles the soul. Maybe that's a good thing.

(on camera): Did you do it again?

CUNNINGHAM: I did. I shot down four more Migs. And I often told myself, I said that if I ever get used to this I shouldn't be here.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Any thoughts that Saddam Hussein and his army would be immediately bombed or intimidated into suspicion have been dashed. CNN's Aaron Brown now takes a look at how the Bush administration is trying to keep expectations in check. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): Bombs fall on the long and rugged northern front, while targets in and around the city of Mosul continue to take a pounding. Intensified coalition bombardment, signalling mounting pressure on the Iraqi army's forward positions in the north.

But in places, that pressure seems to have missed the mark. In Kalak (ph), craters suggest all those bombs' high-explosive punch did little more than rearrange rocks on the hillside, well below Iraqi trenches. And when planes aren't flying overhead, Iraqi soldiers don't appear to be particularly alarmed.

Well away from the front, U.S. paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade are settling into their new surroundings and await the arrival of heavier equipment.

Other Americans have gone into action in the north, helping Kurdish fighters pursue the Islamist radicals in Ansar al-Islam, a hardline group that has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Here, at least, resistance was overcome.

Despite the appearance of the war moving to the north, the coalition is far from having all its pieces in place here. According to Kurdish intelligence sources, there are more than 120,000 Iraqi soldiers arrayed in the north. The latest estimate for the number of U.S. troops here is 1/100 of that.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Kalak (ph), northern Iraq.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And Ben filed that report only a little while ago from the northern part of Iraq.

We'll have Aaron Brown's piece later this afternoon, Aaron Brown's piece on the expectations game as it's being played in Washington.

That's all the time we have now for this hour of CNN's coverage of Strike on Iraq, but we have much more coverage coming up. In the next hour, we'll have details of what's happening in Baghdad. Right now more explosions being heard. But first, let's take a look at headlines this hour.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.