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Walter Rodgers: Mighty army rolling

CNN's Walter Rodgers
CNN's Walter Rodgers

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TOWARD BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. forces continued their advance on Baghdad on Wednesday, battling Iraqi Republican Guard troops degraded by repeated coalition bombing.

CNN correspondent Walter Rodgers has been traveling with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division. He spoke with CNN anchor Carol Costello about the latest push to Baghdad and the resistance met on the way.

RODGERS: All day long, we've been traveling with the 7th Cavalry in the general direction of Baghdad. All day long, we've seen this mighty army rolling in the direction of Baghdad.

At one point on the horizon, we saw this huge convoy of trucks and fighting vehicles stretching as far as you could see, perhaps 10 miles in either direction along the horizon.

Earlier in the day, Army sources tell CNN, the 1st and 3rd brigades took the Iraqi town of Karbala with very little effort. The 1st Brigade rolled through firing, there were a few tanks, and it had no trouble securing the town immediately. The 3rd Brigade took over after that and has now secured the Iraqi town of Karbala.

There was supposed to be a Republican Guard unit there. If it was, it did not put up much of a fight. Throughout the day, we have seen over 100 Iraqi prisoners of war taken and more than a few Iraqi soldiers dead along the road.

A few minutes ago, the 7th Cavalry Apache troop, with which I'm traveling, across a big field, probably within radius of 25 miles of Baghdad, came across an Iraqi anti-aircraft unit. There were three or four guns, 20 millimeter, old Soviet vintage. Immediately, the 7th Cavalry opened up with tank fire and mortars, took them out and killed probably 20 Iraqis.

When some of the Iraqis fled for a farmhouse moments ago, the Army just opened up with 25-millimeter cannon and destroyed whatever was left of that Iraqi anti-aircraft unit.

It's been a very busy day. There are elements of the 7th Cavalry now probably within a 25-mile radius of Baghdad and there are elements of the 3rd Infantry Division, which are probably even closer than that.

COSTELLO: As the troops got closer to Baghdad, it was thought that Saddam's best soldiers would be there, but you say this has been easier than expected, if I could put it in those terms?

RODGERS: Army sources told us that the Air Force has so badly degraded the Medina division, just south of Baghdad, that other units, other divisions, have had to be folded into it. There had to be a consolidation of the Iraqi units, so badly have they been hammered.

As I say, there is this huge army rolling in the general direction of Baghdad. We've seen fighting all across a broad front earlier in the day. Last night in Karbala there was an enormous American bombing of that area and artillery. Again, the Iraqis, if they're standing and fighting, aren't making much of a fight of it at this point.

It may get worse when they get closer to Baghdad, but again heavy Air Force bombing day after day appears to have, to use the army's word, attrited, that is to say , badly degraded the units which are supposed to be defending Baghdad. What we're seeing here is essentially pockets of resistance, but nothing overly serious.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.

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