Saddam Hussein would have to leave a lot of war materiel behind in any withdrawal from Kuwait that the U.S.-led coalition might accept, U.S. military officials said Friday.
They stressed that they could only speculate on what U.S. policymakers would agree to as conditions for a cease-fire and Iraqi pullout from Kuwait.However, they said it was unlikely that the Bush administration would permit him to recover most of the tanks, artillery pieces and other equipment deployed in the emirate since Aug. 2.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the weaponry Saddam would want most - his most modern Soviet-built tanks, artillery pieces, anti-aircraft defense systems and high-tech comunications gear - are the items that the United States would try hardest to deny him.
President Bush is reported to have asked the Soviets to include a four-day withdrawal period, though the White House has not confirmed making the request.
Cautioning that he had no knowl-edge of such a time frame, one senior military officer said four days would be enough to withdraw all functioning equipment but not such things as ammuniiton and damaged equipment.
U.S. command officials have said the Iraqis already have lost about 30 percent of their tanks, big guns and 20 percent of their armored vehicles to the incessant bombing campaign.
A further report on those losses is expected to show the destruction of close to 2,000 of the 4,200 tanks and nearly half of the 3,200 artillery pieces originally deployed in the Kuwait theater, the officials said.
"Apart from the stuff that has already been destroyed, there is still a lot there," said one source.
Some military commentators and analysts had suggested that when a final withdrawal was complete, the Iraqis could ultimately wind up with between 50 percent and 70 percent of their original equipment. An official who tracks the U.S. air campaign carefully said that was "probably fairly accurate."
"You have to realize that if we allow him to take everything back, he's going to drag a lot of his junk with him, destroyed and otherwise. That's a source of parts," the official said.
He said most of Iraq's armor is Soviet, therefore "simplicity itself" in terms of repair. Even tanks burned out inside can often be repaired.
The military officials said there was no reason why Saddam could not get his troops out of Kuwait in a brief time period, such as four days.
Most roads remain adequate to handle a northward flow of heavy equipment and troop-carrying trucks, they said.
Although many key bridges spanning the Euphrates river have been destroyed, the Iraqis still have pontoon bridges that could handle the withdrawing tanks - at a slower rate, the officials said.
They officials said one uncertain factor in any withdrawal was Kuwait City itself.
The city has been heavily fortified against attack. There are anti-aircraft guns on rooftops, and schools, religious sites and residential areas have been taken over for military purposes.
Marine Brig. Gen. Richard Neal, the chief U.S. command spokesman, said the Iraqis, having lost a sizable amount of their military transport, had begun using Kuwait's garbage and other trucks for military supply.