Early in the morning General Schwarzkopf, dressed in his freshly laundered and pressed desert camouflage BDU uniform, climbed to board his airplane in Riyadh and headed toward Kuwait City. Today would be a day to remember. One of those days that would be burned in our memory. School children would find pictures of this day in their history books for decades to come. Today General Schwarzkopf was going to conduct the Safwan Cease Fire meeting with the Iraqis.
The General's jet darted through the bright blue Saudi Arabian sky. As they entered into Kuwaiti airspace the ground beneath them began to be obscured by black smoke. Soon, the pilot began his descent for landing at Kuwait international airport. The General's plane descended from the bright morning sunlight down into a brownish haze. As they approached the airport, the haze turned to pitch black smoke, punctuated periodically with bright burning geysers. The General's plane landed at 0930 and taxied along the tarmac toward several helicopters and a large group of the men who were obviously waiting the CINCs arrival.
General Schwarzkopf stepped from his plane into the smoky morning. He can see burning oil wells all along the horizon. General Franks was waiting with his own entourage to escort the CINC to Safwan in VII Corps helicopters.
General Franks greeted his boss and they both climbed aboard Fred Franks' command Black Hawk helicopter. Nothing was said about the Safwan debacle, but general Franks wanted to shows Schwarzkopf the enormity of VII Corps' victory. "Jayhawk Six" lifted the two generals into the air and flew north through the black smoke. About 10 miles north of Kuwait City the smoke cleared as they flew along Kuwait City/ Basrah highway. Franks ordered his pilot to take his time so that General Schwarzkopf could gaze upon "The Highway of Death." Next, they detoured slightly to the west so that the CINC couldn't see VII Corps' battlefield, strewn with the burned out hulks of thousands of Iraqi armored vehicles. After the short tour, Jayhawk Six descended on the airfield at Safwan, 15 miles inside Iraq.
Two Iraqi Lieutenant Generals and an interpreter were sent to the discussions. They rode in their own vehicles from Basrah to the Safwan crossroads where they were met by the 1st Infantry Division. A large, highly visible, armored force awaited the Iraqi delegation at the checkpoint. A small convoy of eight Humvees were waiting for the Iraqis. Each Iraqi was escorted into his own Humvee and the convoy headed for the airfield. Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks escorted the convoy, both front and rear and Apache helicopters flew overhead. The entire route from the crossroads to the airfield was lined with more M1s and Bradleys spaced 20 meters apart, their crews standing in the hatches in full battle gear.
The scene at the airfield was just as imposing. Tanks and Bradleys ringed the airfield. A company of Apaches hovered overhead while another company of Apaches was parked along the runway.
The Humvee convoy and Lieutenant General Bin Sultan al-Saud Khalid's Royal helicopter approached the airfield and arrived nearly simultaneously. General Schwarzkopf and Khalid met the delegation in front of two tents set up to search each and every attendee of the meeting. Schwarzkopf introduced himself to the Iraqis and then asked that they enter the tent and submit to a personal search. The Iraqi generals hesitated, but General Schwarzkopf offered to be the first to be searched. Once the necessary security measures had been taken, the Iraqis entered the main tent and were seated at the table.
The official participants of the Cease-fire meeting were General Norman Schwarzkopf, Commanding General of CENTCOM, Lieutenant General Bin Sultan al-Saud Khalid, Commander Joint Arab Forces, Lieutenant General Salah Abud Mahmud, Iraqi III Corps Commander, and Lieutenant General Sultan Hashim Armad, Deputy of Staff of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
In addition to the active participants, the back of the room was filled with a handful of high ranking military dignitaries. General Schwarzkopf's utmost concern was for the American POWs. He had lived through the Vietnam POW nightmare and he was determined to not let that happen again. He was also concerned for the other Coalition prisoners and the hundreds, if not thousands, of Kuwaitis who had been kidnapped in the final days of the war and taken into Iraq. So the first official subject of discussion was the POW status. Schwarzkopf asked for an Iraqi accounting of the number of prisoners they held and a complete list of their names and status. They immediately gave him the number of prisoners being held. A quick calculation indicated that Rhonda Cornum, Troy Dunlap, and Dan Stamaris might still be alive. The American's would not know for sure until the Iraqis delivered their complete list.
The Iraqis asked how many Iraqi prisoners were being held by the Coalition. Schwarzkopf replied that the number was approximately 60,000. The Iraqis had not even known the enormity of their defeat until then. They were visibly shaken by this news. General Khalid insisted that all of the missing Kuwaitis be accounted for as well. In the end, both sides agreed to let the International Red Cross handle the immediate release of all prisoners of war and the Iraqis stated that any Kuwaitis that were currently in Iraq would be free to return to Kuwait.
General Schwarzkopf then moved on to this subject of the cease-fire itself. He had two major concerns. First, he wanted to ensure that there would be no more skirmishes. He told it the Iraqis that all of their front-line units must move 5 kilometers back from their current positions. American and Coalition forces would also withdraw 5 kilometers. This would provide a 10 kilometer deep buffer zone. In addition, Iraq must cease all the air operations.
The CINC's second concern was the Iraqi land mines that had been strewn in and around Kuwait. Schwarzkopf told the Iraqi Generals that they must provide maps and diagrams for all of the known minefields, both on land and in the ocean. With virtually no discussion, they agreed to provide as much information as they could on the location of mines.
The meeting was quite short. General Schwarzkopf asked the Iraqi generals to wait a few minutes so that they could be given audio tapes and transcript of the entire meeting. They promised to provide details on all of the POWs they held just before the meeting was concluded. The Iraqis left the tent and were driven back to their vehicles at the crossroads. For all intents and purposes, the war was over.