Desert Fox target toll climbs past 75 Iraqi sites

Desert Fox target toll climbs past 75 Iraqi sites

U.S. and British air and naval forces attacked more than 75 Iraqi military targets in the first two nights of bombing in Operation Desert Fox, Pentagon leaders said.

As the Pentagon prepared for additional strikes, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, updated Pentagon reporters on the status of operations.

Shelton said Dec. 17 bombings, for the first time in Desert Fox, involved both joint and combined operations. U.S Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force assets, as well as those from Great Britain, worked together in a coordinated strike effort, he said.

"We're very, very proud of our combined forces and very satisfied with the results thus far," Cohen said. "Our forces are intensely and intently focused on their jobs and doing [them] well."

Cohen emphasized there have been no U.S. casualties to date, and all aircraft and personnel have returned safely following their missions. He also announced Desert Fox has now employed more Tomahawk cruise missiles than were used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, though he declined to provide exact figures.

Shelton and Cohen said the second night's air strikes continued to focus on weapons of mass destruction sites, security sites and forces, integrated air defense and airfields, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's military command and control infrastructure.

"We haven't destroyed his total capability, but we have certainly reduced his assets," Shelton said.

Defense officials summarized the targets during the briefing: 27 surface-to-air missile sites, 18 command and control facilities, 19 sites housing security details for Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program, 11 weapons of mass destruction industrial and production facilities, eight Republican Guard facilities, and five airfields.

Cohen said it's too early to assess the overall success rate, but added he's satisfied with the results so far. He declined to say whether more attacks are planned and re-emphasized that the objective of Desert Fox is to degrade Iraq's military capabillities, not to destabilize Hussein's regime.

Defense officials at the briefing said many attacks focused on destroying or degrading targets in southern Iraq, such as surface-to-air missile sites, airfields, and command and control sites. This, they said, has helped create a safer corridor for pilots to reach northern targets.