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Iraq: Desert Dispatch -- Quick U.S. Advance Slices Through Iraqi Defenses

Prague, 3 April 2003 (RFE/RL) -- RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz is embedded with the tactical operations center of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division. Today he reports that the division is "near Baghdad" and is continuing with a relatively rapid advance toward the Iraqi capital.

Question: You report a relatively quick advance by U.S. forces on Baghdad, and yet you've also witnessed some intense military action over the past 48 hours. What can you tell us about what you've seen?

Synovitz: What I'm seeing right now are columns of U.S. Abrams tanks advancing toward positions where Iraqi troops were holed up about a half an hour ago. There were intense firefights down the road about 200 meters from where I am, between the Iraqi troops and U.S. forces. There are columns of black smoke billowing in the air in the direction of Baghdad itself. Wreckage is lying strewn about this area, [along with the] smoldering remains of a military truck and the hulls of many Nissan pickup trucks that the Iraqi troops were using to fire from. And I can hear artillery -- it sounds like Paladin howitzer artillery coming from the U.S. firing from a position further down the road, toward the Iraqi position. The advance is moving swiftly and rapidly as American forces are consolidating the gains they have made in the last 48 hours around Baghdad.

Question: This fighting has resulted in some heavy casualties among the Iraqi Republican Guard and regular army troops. What can you tell us about this?

Synovitz: Indeed, the fighting has been very bloody today, as the U.S. forces have been advancing toward Baghdad. I have seen scores of dead Iraqi soldiers lying on the roadside, more dead bodies than I have seen in my entire 20 years of work as a journalist, both in battlefields and as a police reporter in the inner cities of the United States.