Thursday, April 3
U.S. Troops Consider Options on Baghdad
Matt Kelley, The Associated Press, April 3, 2003

U.S. troops have advanced quickly to the doorstep of Baghdad, leaving their commanders with a tantalizing choice: Continue the charge into Saddam Hussein's capital or wait for reinforcements and give Iraqis a chance to overthrow the regime themselves.

But during the fighting, two American aircraft were lost. While the Pentagon first said an Army Black Hawk helicopter and a Navy F/A-18C Hornet had been shot down, commanders in the Persian Gulf said Thursday they were still investigating the causes of both incidents.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told a Qatar press conference that "hostile fire" was not suspected in the helicopter downing and that there were reports the Hornet was hit by missiles, not elaborating whether they were Iraqi or coalition missiles.

Lead units of the multi-pronged U.S. Army and Marine assault force were about four miles from the edge of Baghdad on Thursday, and some soldiers raided a presidential palace near Saddam International Airport.

Special forces infiltrated some Iraqi command posts in the Baghdad area during the night, seeking strategic information, and also secured some bridges and dams to forestall possible sabotage, according to the U.S. Central Command.

The advance set the stage for either a final push on the capital or the capitulation of Saddam's best and most loyal fighters. Some Pentagon officials said Wednesday the American forces likely would pause on the outskirts of the capital to allow pressure to build on the Iraqi regime, perhaps enough so it would fall without the chaotic and bloody urban fighting Iraqi officials say they are planning. [...]
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