Pentagon lists faults in its gulf war performance

July 17, 1991|By Mark Thompson | Mark Thompson,Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON B — WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon praised its Persian Gulf war performance yesterday but, in its first formal assessment of the fighting, faulted its intelligence, logistics and Scud missile-hunting abilities.

The 272-page report, ordered by Congress, underscored the Pentagon's chronic tendency to ignore real, but mundane, requirements for mine-clearing equipment, cargo planes and ships, and the heavy trucks needed to support fast-moving tank forces.

Although Congress sought an estimate of the number of Iraqi military and civilian casualties, the report said the "very limited" information available prevented the Defense Department from coming up with a figure. The Defense Intelligence Agency has estimated that 100,000 Iraqi troops died in the fighting. The report said 148 U.S. troops and 192 allies died in the war.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney noted that much of the U.S. military was untested by the six-week war, which included only 100 hours of intense ground combat.

Mr. Cheney, in the report's introduction, declared that the U.S.-led coalition "dominated every area of warfare." But the report itself contained a list of problems highlighted during the war.

"The morale and intentions of the Iraqi forces and leaders were obscure to us," the report said. "Field commanders wanted more tactical reconnaissance and imagery."

The flow of photographic intelligence was "difficult and slow" and hampered allied efforts to choose among targets that already had been attacked, the report said.

The hunt for President Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles proved "difficult and costly" and forced allied war planners to dedicate up to 72 warplanes to the effort to destroy the missiles, which Iraq was launching against Israel and Saudi Arabia. "In the end, Scud launches were not stopped, but they were suppressed," the report said.

"Tactical ballistic missile defense worked, but imperfectly," Mr. Cheney said, apparently referring to the Feb. 25 Scud attack on a U.S. barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed 28 Americans when a Patriot missile defense system malfunctioned. "Mobile missile hunting was difficult and costly; we will need to do better," he said.

"We were not nearly good enough at clearing land and sea mines, especially shallow-water mines," Mr. Cheney wrote. "This might have imposed significant additional costs had large-scale amphibious operations been required."

The report noted that the United States in the past has relied on its European allies to handle naval mines. "Refocusing our national defense strategy away from the European theater and toward regional contingencies has exposed a gap in U.S. mine warfare capability that our European allies were previously expected to fill," the report said.

There were inadequate numbers of trucks, helicopters required special care in the harsh desert environment, communications were sometimes poor, bomb damage assessment was troublesome, and "friendly fire" killed U.S. troops, Mr. Cheney said. His observations echoed many of the concerns expressed in congressional testimony last month by Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. field commander.

The report also said that forces need more heavy equipment transports, improved navigation systems to help troops find their way on the battlefield and ways to help identify friend from foes in order to cut down on the "friendly fire" deaths that result from troops attacking their colleagues.

The report also disclosed that "some number" of the Army's top-of-the-line M-1A1 battle tanks may have been damaged or destroyed in "friendly fire" incidents.

The U.S. military needed 1,200 heavy-duty trucks to ship its tanks and other tracked vehicles across the desert but had only 500, the report said. The other 700 were borrowed, leased or bought from private firms and allied nations -- including 40 from Czechoslovakia.

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