One key part of the operation has been the precision bombing and surveillance power of U.S. aircraft, which has grown exponentially since the first Persian Gulf war. Thousands of the satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and laser-guided smaller bombs have been dropped, with relatively light civilian casualties and damage to cities and towns.
For the most part, air power seems to have destroyed the feared Republican Guard units in the field while providing critical close-air support for U.S. forces in the north and south. Surveillance aircraft such as Joint Stars picked up enemy convoys heading south from Baghdad and were able to dispatch attack jets, while Predator drones were able to watch Iraqi movements.
American commandos are said to be secretly entrenched in the heart of Baghdad, ready to point laser finders at targets that can be swiftly attacked by warplanes, a lethal duet perfected in Afghanistan.
Troop numbers at issue
Despite the many successes, there is a simmering debate about whether the war plan included enough armor, artillery and ground troops. Only one tank-heavy Army unit, the 3rd Infantry Division, is on the ground, although some officers said at least two such divisions, as well as an armored cavalry regiment, are needed.
The 4th Infantry Division, the Army's most technologically sophisticated armored unit, was originally to take the northern route through Turkey. It is only now offloading its equipment in Kuwait and will not be ready to join the fight for at least another week.
Critics, particularly active-duty and retired Army officers, argue that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld micromanaged and ultimately delayed the flow of forces to the region. Rumsfeld, backed by Franks and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has vigorously denied playing such a role.
At least one unit, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Carson, Colo., was expected in the region by Army officers before the conflict started but was delayed by Rumsfeld's interference, the officers and military planners said. The regiment is still loading its Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Kiowa helicopters at a Texas port and is not expected to arrive in Kuwait for weeks.
The Pentagon began rushing some forces to Kuwait after the fedayeen began to attack U.S. supply lines. Last weekend, 500 soldiers from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, along with their armed Humvees and Kiowa reconnaissance helicopters, were quickly flown into Kuwait. The rest of the 3,000 soldiers are heading over by ship.
Rumsfeld's defenders point out that hundreds of the Navy and Air Force warplanes that the defense secretary favors over heavy Army units have served as a "ground force multiplier" in Iraq, vastly increasing the strength of the infantry units through precise and furious attacks on their foes.
Next weeks crucial
In the coming weeks, thousands more U.S. troops will head into the region. And how the battle of Baghdad unfolds may shed additional light on whether there are enough troops on the ground.
Retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, who was Franks' predecessor as commander of forces in the U.S. Central Command region from 1991 to 1994, agreed with some of his Army colleagues that more forces were needed from the start.
"The relevant questions are these: Will this second infusion [of ground troops] be sufficient, and why weren't these troops there when the war started?" Hoar asked last week in a New York Times opinion piece. When the war is over, the Senate should hold hearings about how the war plan was drafted, he said. "Then the American people will know, if belatedly, why we didn't send enough troops to begin with."
News services contributed to this article.