WASHINGTON – U.S. and coalition forces have struck Iraqi targets with 6,000 precision-guided bombs since the war began, in a dramatic escalation of missile, a Pentagon spokesman said Saturday.
In addition, the United States has launched 675 Tomahawk cruise missiles, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said at a Pentagon briefing. As of Thursday, 4,300 precision-guided munitions and 600 Tomahawks had been used.
U.S. and coalition aircraft flew more than 1,000 missions over Iraq on Friday, McChrystal said.
Seven Tomahawk cruise missiles have missed their targets because of mechanical malfunctions, the general said.
The U.S. military agreed on Saturday to temporarily suspend Tomahawk launches from the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea because some missiles had strayed into Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 100,000 U.S. and coalition forces are now in Iraq, the Pentagon spokesman said, even as additional American troops head to the Persian Gulf.
In all, 290,000 coalition forces are in the region in support of combat operations, and more than one-third of those troops are in Iraq, McChrystal said.
Responding to reports that an Iraqi suicide attack had killed four U.S. servicemen, McChrystal said the military would work to shore up protections of military checkpoints and other sites.
The attack "looks and feels like terrorism," McChrystal said. "To protect our soldiers clearly requires great care."
The attack occurred at a highway checkpoint near the central Iraqi city of Najaf. An Army officer said the driver of the car had signaled for help and then detonated explosives as the soldiers approached.
Overall, the Pentagon said Saturday the number of American deaths in the war with Iraq stood at 36, including 29 soldiers killed in action.
The others were nonhostile deaths, the military said.
U.S. forces are preparing for an expected battle against Iraq's best-trained and best-equipped troops: The Republican Guard forces arrayed outside Baghdad.
Those units continue to change their positions occasionally in efforts to avoid U.S. airstrikes, McChrystal said.
"What we see is what we call survivability moves, not major repositioning," the general said. "And survivability is to avoid the air power that we've been bringing against them, which has been taking them apart."
The airstrikes also have included the first heavy combat from a helicopter unit of the 101st Airborne, which hammered at Iraqi forces late Friday to soften them up for the eventual ground campaign.
McChrystal said the attack against the Medina division of the Republican Guard included "40-plus" Apache helicopters.