|The Post-War March 1, 1991 and Beyond
Although the war "ended" with the cessation of offensive operations by the Allies, there were isolated incidents that took the lives of a number of allied troops. Land mines and pockets of resistance killed several American men and women and the Kuwaiti theater remains a very dangerous place.
On March 3, Gen. Schwartzkopf sat down with his defeated counterparts and dictated the terms for the cease-fire. Allied forces would remain in defensive positions in the area of Iraq they currently occupied. Iraqi forces would be allowed to leave this area, but could not take any of their equipment or supplies. In addition, no aircraft were allowed to operate in an area near the U.S. forces and other flights were strictly limited. The fate of Allied P.O.W.'s was also discussed.
A full accounting of the P.O.W.'s, which was never given during the course of the war, was requested and the Iraqis provided the Allies with a list of all Prisoners of War. Included were several airmen previously listed as missing in action. The first 10 P.O.W.'s, including an American woman, were released on March 4th and 35 more were released on March 5th. According to the Iraqis, that is all that they held.
On March 6th, President Bush addressed the Congress and announced the liberation of Kuwait is complete. He then called on a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict and pledged to work with the Desert Storm allies to hammer out a solution to that long-standing conflict. He also announced the first U.S. combat troops would be removed from the theater and brought home as soon as possible. He cautioned American's expectations of a quick pullout by stating it would take several months for a full withdrawal, but the first elements of U.S. forces touched American soil for the first time in months on March 8th.
In Iraq, a new crisis was developing as disgruntled Army troops moved into the Iraqi city of Basra and began to take out their aggression against Saddam Hussein. Although these rebellions in Basra were reportedly crushed by Iraqi Republican Guard forces, the rebels gained strength from Shiite Fundamentalists and Kurdish rebels in Northern Iraq beginning a possible state of civil war in Iraq.
While the elimination of Saddam Hussein is certainly a goal of the United States, the crumbling of Iraq was never desired. A weak and disorganized Iraq could fall victim to Iranian or Soviet intervention, or fall prey to factionalism amongst its own citizens. The sovereignty of Iraq is something the United States would like to preserve, but a task which may prove difficult given the variety of forces pulling at Iraq. With the return of 60,00 P.O.W.'s, which was held up because of the rebellion, it is likely that the unrest in Iraq will continue and grow in the next few months.
Allied responses to the uprising were muted. Although the allies could hardly resume military operations against Iraqi forces, as there remains little organized Iraqi defense, there were incidents of combat between the cease fire parties. Iraqi aircraft, which were being used to attack rebel forces, were shot down by American planes flying patrol over Iraq. This use of Iraqi airplanes and helicopters to crush the rebellion was regarded by allied commanders as a violation of the cease fire and subject to the "you fly, you die" rule. Any further Iraqi flights would be considered targets until a permanent cease-fire is reached.
Throughout March, homecomings took place at military bases around the country. U.S. forces were being pulled out in order of their time spent with the longest serving units being brought home first. Many of the lightly armed infantry troops, such as the 82nd Airborne, were to be out of the theater by April, with the heavy armor units taking several more months. Allied air forces were brought out in a similar fashion, with the longest serving units flown out in the early part of March. At sea, several carrier groups were sent home in early March, but they were to be replaced by recently deployed units from the United States. There is likely to be a carrier presence in the Gulf for several years to come and a rotation policy is already being worked out in the Pentagon.
Secretary Cheney and many other American military leaders have announced that the United States is going to maintain a presence in the Gulf region for several years to come. Although a forward base may be created in Bahrain, the positioning of troops on Arab soil is something that will be kept to a minimum, with more emphasis placed on joint training and propositioning of supplies in the region.
The United States has made a number of strong and valuable allies during the conduct of Operation Desert Storm. In addition, older alliances, such as those with England, France, and Israel have been strengthened. The United States is now in a better position than any time in its history to bring peace to the Middle-East region, but it remains to be seen if the 2,00 years of conflict can be ended in this century.
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