When the ground offensive started on 24 February 1991, Iraqi ground forces remained in defensive positions in the KTO. There were no indications of any Iraqi troop withdrawal. Iraqi front line units, including the 7th, 14th and 29th Infantry divisions in the I MEF zone and the 19th Infantry Division in the Joint Forces Command - East [JFC-E] zone, offered sporadic, but sometimes stiff, resistance. These forces were bypassed, withdrew or surrendered. Despite these initial setbacks, the Iraqi III Corps, opposite I MEF and Joint Forces Command - East [JFC-E] and the Iraqi IV Corps, generally opposite Joint Forces Command - North [JFC-N], still could counterattack with units from the 3rd Armored Division south of Kuwait International Airport. However, the large number of Iraqi III Corps soldiers surrendering suggested many had lost the will to fight. For the Iraqis to stop the Coalition ground offensive, mobile forces would have to leave their reverted positions, making them vulnerable to Coalition air attack.
As the ground offensive progressed, by 25 February 1991 Iraqi units' ineffectiveness became more clear. The Iraqi III Corps units had suffered severe damage. CENTCOM assessed the Corps' 7th, 8th, 14th, 18th, and 29th Infantry divisions, in the I MEF and JFC-E zones, as combat ineffective and the Iraqi 5th Mechanized Infantry and the 3rd Armored divisions of III Corps as badly mauled. On the western side of III Corps, the 14th and 7th Infantry divisions in front of I MEF were combat ineffective. The 36th Infantry, 1st Mechanized Infantry, and the 56th Armored Brigade established hasty defensive positions south/southwest of Al-Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City. The Iraqi 3rd Armored Division was trying to hold blocking positions between Kuwait International Airfield and Al-Jahra. On the eastern side of III Corps, the 18th and 8th Infantry divisions, in front of JFC-E, were assessed as combat ineffective, although they offered stiff resistance against JFC-E forces near Mina As-Sa'ud. The 29th Infantry Division, withdrawing to the east, also was combat ineffective. The Iraqi 19th, 11th, and 15th Infantry divisions and three SF brigades in Kuwait City were assessed at full strength. These divisions continued to focus on an amphibious assault and prepare for military operations in Kuwait City. The deep penetration of Coalition forces in the western side of the Iraqi III Corps prompted several Iraqi battalion-size counterattacks from divisions along the flanks of the penetration. These units took heavy losses.
On 26 February 1991, the massive exodus of Iraqi forces from the eastern part of the theater began. Elements of the Iraqi III Corps were pushed back into Kuwait City by I MEF and JFC-E. They were joined by Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait City. Iraqi units became intermingled and disordered. During the early morning of 26 February, military and commandeered civilian vehicles of every description, loaded with Iraqi soldiers and goods looted from Kuwait, clogged the main four-lane highway north from Kuwait City. To deny Iraqi commanders the opportunity to reorganize their forces and establish a cohesive defense, these forces were struck repeatedly by air attacks.
As of February 1997 Iraq had initiated a massive troop build-up of four Corps: two infantry, one armoured, and one of the Republican Guard, in the areas of Kut, Amara, Nassiriya, Basra, and the marshes facing the Iranian border in southern Iraq. This included the transfer of forces from the First and Fifth Corps from the North, to the South. The Third Corps is centered in the Al-Deer area in Basra, and had been joined by units of the Fifth Corps which is based at Salamiya, southeast of Mosul (equivalent to an infantry division), in addition to the Third Corps units which consist of the 11th Infantry Division, 51st Infantry Division, 6th Infantry Division, and 82nd Marine Infantry Battalion.
In June 1998 Saddam Hussein replaced senior military commanders and recalled some officers out of retirement. This is a frequent practice by Saddam who is concerned about opposition to his regime within the ranks of the Iraqi armed forces. In Baghdad, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Maj. Gen. Youness Thunun Qashmoola, was replaced by Lt. Gen. Sabah Nouri Alwan Hamoud Al Ajili, who was commaander of the 3rd Corps in 1993.
Reports of military operations against Shi'a civilians increased notably in the summer of 1998, after the killings of Ayatollahs Ali al Gharawi and Sheikh al Borojourdi. In July 1998, security services resumed arrest sweeps in the Thawra district of Baghdad, rounding up young men, assaulting residents, and looting money and personal property. In August 1998, the Third Army Corps, in conjunction with Ba'ath Party officials led by Abdul Baqi as-Sa'doon, conducted large-scale operations against settlements of the al Juwaisid, ar-Rahma, al-Bu Salim, and Asakira tribes in Nasiriyah province; most of the inhabitants, including women, children, and the elderly, were forced to flee after dozens were wounded in heavy artillery bombardments.
In November 1998, security forces, the Third and Fourth Army Corps, and Ba'ath Party militia staged a 5-day assault, including heavy artillery bombardment, in the Bani Malik area and the al Suwaib district of Basra province, and widespread areas of Nasiriyah and Amara provinces, nearly to the Iranian border. Hundreds of persons reportedly were killed in late November 1998 in Amara as part of a security sweep personally directed by Qusay Hussein, Saddam's son and his Principal Deputy on the State Council. In December 1998, commandos arrested 39 persons in the aftermath of an alleged attempt in Karbala to kill Revolutionary Command Council Vice President Izzat ad-Douri. Some sources in the opposition claimed that the attempt on ad-Douri's life was staged in order to justify the crackdown. Others indicate that the 39 persons arrested were executed summarily.
As of March 1999 it was noted that the number of Tikriti officers who occupied important positions had increased, which negatively affected other commanders and senior officers, because the situation minimized the chances of their promotion. At that time the commanders of the 1st and 3rd Corps were Al-Tikritis.
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