Iraq: April 4, 2003


For the last 48 hours, Iraqi soldiers are surrendering and deserting in larger numbers as U.S. forces get closer to Baghdad. Uniforms and military equipment is being found abandoned along roads and inside towns. 

Most of the airport, 25 kilometers outside Baghdad, has been taken by U.S. troops. There were no casualties to the Americans in this operation, as has increasingly been the case during the Iraqi operations. 

U.S. Marines continue moving up towards Baghdad from the southeast, where an unconventional battle for the city is planned. The psychological warfare campaign, although little heard from in the media, goes on and has an effect. Iraqi soldiers, and even Saddam loyalists, are increasingly demoralized at the untouchable and unstoppable American troops. The word is spreading that the American not only can't be defeated, but even killing or wounding them is nearly impossible. All of the sudden, the fantastic stories of the 1991 Iraqi rout in the desert come back to mind, and most Iraqis conclude that the Americans have only gotten better since then. And they are right, and that includes the British as well. Down south, the British have tested and refined tactics for moving into a large Iraqi city, tactics that will be used in Baghdad as coalition commandos and regular forces squeeze the city to find Saddam and his key aides. The Saddam government will start to disappear, being replaced by the interim military government now waiting in Kuwait. U.S. troops will not attack into Baghdad so much as they will stage raids. Using urban warfare tactics learned from the Israelis, and used in the urban fighting to the south, the coalition troops will pick apart Iraqi opposition, not go after it head on. 

Many pundits continue to invoke urban combat debacles like Mogadishu and Grozny as examples of what coalition forces can expect in Baghdad. What is forgotten here is that new and more effective urban fighting tactics have already been demonstrated in the cities of southern Iraq. Moreover, the inhabitants know they have an incentive to aid the coalition, for extended fighting will mean loss of water and electricity supplies, and death for thousands of civilians. Saddam supporters will be pressed by coalition troops in the front and anti-Saddam Iraqis from behind.

The most difficult chore the new interim government will face is law and order. In addition to the usual crooks and gangsters that thrived even in Saddam's police state, there will be the thugs and unemployed enforcers who formerly worked for the government. These guys have guns and are accustomed to using them to get their way. The coalition has not yet revealed how they plan to deal with crime, and Basra is already suffering a massive crime wave. 

In northern Iraq, more resistance has been encountered outside Mosul, halting advancing Kurdish militiamen. 

So far, U.S. losses have been 41 troops killed in combat, 13 from accidents, seven captured, 16 missing and 160 wounded. The casualty rate per day has been declining as the war went on. The vast differences in training, leadership and equipment quality between coalition and Iraqi troops has not only kept friendly losses low, but made the losses lower as the fighting went on. This is because the coalition was able to improve their tactics quickly, in reaction to Iraqi tactics or unexpected conditions.




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