IRAQ: U.S. Deployments at the War’s Height

February 3, 2005

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How many U.S. troops were stationed in and around Iraq when Baghdad fell?

The Pentagon said April 8 that some 340,000 U.S. servicemen and women were under the authority of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which covers a region stretching from the Horn of Africa through the Persian Gulf and into Central Asia. GlobalSecurity.org, a defense information website, estimated that about 235,000 of these troops were engaged in the Iraq war.

Where were most of the troops located?

Pentagon officials said more than 125,000 troops were in Iraq. Others remained in Kuwait, the main staging area for the ground force. In more limited numbers, U.S. forces were also in Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Israel, Djibouti, and Diego Garcia, a 17-square-mile island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Tens of thousands of additional troops were at sea in aircraft carrier battle groups or on Marine amphibious assault ships.

What kinds of forces were present?

Every branch of the U.S. armed services— including the Coast Guard— was involved. Troops consisted of a mix of special operations forces, combat units, and security and support personnel.

Did other countries sent troops?

Yes. There were approximately 45,000 British troops, roughly 2,000 Australian soldiers, and a small number of Polish combat troops. A number of other countries, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, sent non-combat troops. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE also sent 8,000 soldiers to Kuwait in a largely symbolic effort to help defend that country. Kuwait was invaded by Iraq in 1990.

Do we know how many U.S. reserves and National Guard troops were called?

Yes. As of April 2, 218,931 reserve and National Guard troops had been placed on active duty. Most of these— 148,450— belonged to the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

What were the main ground forces involved in the invasion?

They included:

  • The First Marine Expeditionary Force, with approximately 50,000 Marines.
  • The Army’s Third Infantry Division, a mechanized unit with 16,500 soldiers, dozens of Apache attack and Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters, and hundreds of M1A1 Abrams tanks and M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
  • The Army’s 101st Airborne Division, with a total of 19,000 personnel and about 280 helicopters. This unit was deployed via aircraft in both northern and southern Iraq.
  • The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. These units fought in central and northern Iraq.
  • The Army’s V Corps, based in Heidelberg, Germany. V Corps commander Lt. Gen. William Wallace was placed in charge of all Army units taking part in the invasion. V Corps personnel numbered some 35,000 and included engineering, military police, air defense, and helicopter attack units.

Did Turkey’s resistance to providing bases for U.S. ground forces affect the deployment?

Yes. The U.S. sought permission to send 62,000 ground troops over land through Turkey into northern Iraq, but those plans were scrapped when Turkish lawmakers refused to grant permission. More than 35 ships transporting the Fourth Infantry Division’s tanks, guided missile launchers, artillery, and other equipment waited for weeks off the Turkish coast. The unit’s 20,000 soldiers began to arrive in Iraq in mid-April, as the heaviest fighting tapered off.

What other ground forces were slated to deploy?

They included thousands of soldiers from the First Cavalry Regiment, the First Armored Division, the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment. By mid-April, the First Cavalry had been put on hold and the First Armored had started to roll into southern Iraq. These heavy units, with tanks and armored fighting vehicles, reinforced supply lines in southern Iraq and provided back-up for ground forces in Baghdad.

The Pentagon said these delayed deployments were part of its "rolling start" strategy; critics said more of these divisions should have been in Kuwait before the ground invasion began.

How much sea power was deployed?

At the war’s height, there were six aircraft carrier battle groups in the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf: USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Harry S. Truman, USS Constellation, USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Nimitz. There were also 23 amphibious task group ships in the region carrying more than 10,000 Marines.

How much of U.S. firepower was based on aircraft carriers?

A great deal. The six carrier battle groups comprised more than 40 ships, which in total could fire more than 1,200 Tomahawk cruise missiles and host about 300 attack aircraft. In all, about 70 aircraft, including F-14 and F-18 fighter jets, electronic warfare aircraft, refueling aircraft, and helicopters were associated with each carrier. Total personnel in each carrier group ranged from 5,800 to more than 8,000.

What kinds of U.S. aircraft were involved in the war?

The Pentagon said April 7 that some 1,200 aircraft were in the CENTCOM region.

  • AWACS airborne command aircraft acted as communication and surveillance hubs high over the battlefield, detecting, identifying, and tracking aircraft.
  • EC-130 electronic combat aircraft jammed enemy communications, broadcast a range of television and radio signals, and gathered intelligence.
  • F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter jets hit targets with precision-guided and other weapons.
  • B-2 long-distance stealth bombers and single-seat F-117 stealth attack fighters evaded enemy radars and delivered a range of heavy weaponry and precision-guided munitions. The B-2’s flew from bases in Diego Garcia, Britain, or their home base in Missouri; the F-117s flew from bases in Qatar.
  • B-1B and B-52 bombers. These heavy bombers dropped a wide range of weaponry, including precision-guided high-explosive bombs, cluster bombs, and cruise missiles.

Where are the U.S. headquarters in the Gulf?

The main CENTCOM headquarters is in Doha, Qatar. Each U.S. military service has a separate regional command center. The Army Forces Central Command is located at Camp Doha, Kuwait. The Navy headquarters is located at Bahrain’s Manama Naval Base. The air campaign is led out of the Combined Air Operations Center at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, which oversees aircraft flying out of 30 bases.

Who was in charge of the war for the United States?

The commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces is President George W. Bush. Next in the chain of command is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who directs military commanders through General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The regional commander of the war is Army General Tommy R. Franks, the CENTCOM commander.

How did this deployment compare with the allied forces assembled for the 1991 Gulf War?

There were fewer soldiers but arguably more firepower. In all, there were nearly 750,000 U.S. and allied troops in the region for Operation Desert Storm in 1991. U.S. commanders said that technological advances, lessons learned in 1991, and the weakened state of Iraq’s army permitted them to focus their attack more accurately and lethally.

Sources: U.S. Defense Department, news reports, GlobalSecurity.org, the Center for Defense Information, Council on Foreign Relations experts.

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