|The Iraq War|
Report for 2003-03-30
March 30, 2003, 2042hrs MSK (GMT +4 DST), Moscow - No significant changes have been reported during March 29-30 on the Iraqi-US front. Positional combat, sporadic exchange of fire and active search and reconnaissance operations by both sides continue along the entire line of the front.
American troops continue massing near Karabela. As was mentioned in the previous update, the US group of forces in this area numbers up to 30,000 troops, up to 200 tanks and up to 230 helicopters. Latest photos of this area suggest that the [US] troops are busy servicing and repairing their equipment and setting up the support infrastructure.
According to radio intercepts, the coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks has visited the US forces near Karabela. He personally inspected the troops and had a meeting with the unit commanders. Currently no information is available about the topics discussed during the meeting. However, it is believed that the [coalition] commander listened to the reports prepared by the field commanders and formulated the main objectives for the next 2-3 days.
The current technical shape of the coalition forces was discussed during the meeting at the coalition central headquarters. During a personal phone conversation with another serviceman in the US one participant of this meeting called this technical state "depressing". According to him "... a third of our equipment can be dragged to a junk yard right now. We are holding up only thanks to the round-the-clock maintenance. The real heroes on the front lines are not the Marines but the 'ants' from the repair units. If it wasn't for them we'd be riding camels by now ..." [Reverse-translated from Russian.]
Based on the intercepted radio communications, reports from both sides and other intelligence data, since the beginning of the war the coalition lost 15-20 tanks, around 40 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, more than 50 military trucks and up to 10 helicopters. In addition to that there have been at least 40 more disabled tanks, about the same number of disabled APCs and IFVs, about 100 disabled wheeled vehicles of all types and around 40 disabled helicopters. These numbers are based on the analysis of non-classified technical reports received daily by the Pentagon.
During the attack last night up to two US Marine battalions attempted to push the Iraqis out of their defensive positions near An-Najaf. Despite the preliminary 4-hour-long artillery and aerial bombardment once they approached the Iraqi positions the US troops were met with heavy machine-gun and RPG fire and were forced to return to their original positions. One US tank was destroyed by a landmine and two APCs were hit during this night attack. Radio intercepts show that 2 Marines were killed and 5 were wounded. The latest attempt by the US troops to improve their positions on the left bank of the Euphrates near An-Nasiriya was also a failure. Despite all the precautions taken to ensure the tactical surprise the US forces were met with heavy fire and returned to the original positions. According to the reports by the [US] field commanders, three Marines were missing in action and four were wounded in this engagement.
These failed attacks have once again confirmed the fears of the coalition command that the Iraqi forces were much better technically equipped than was believed before the war. In particular, the DIA [US Defense Intelligence Agency] intelligence report from February 2003 insisted that the Iraqi army practically had no night vision equipment except for those systems installed on some tanks and [the] serviceability of even that equipment was questioned. In reality, however, the coalition troops have learned that the Iraqis have an adequate number of night vision surveillance systems and targeting sights even at the squadron level and they know how to properly use this equipment. A particular point of concern [for the coalition] is the fact that most Iraqi night vision systems captured by the coalition are the latest models manufactured in the US and Japan. After analyzing the origins of this equipment the US begun talking about the "Syrian connection". In this regard, the US military experts have analyzed Syria's weapons imports for the past two years and have concluded that in the future fighting [in Iraq] the coalition troops may have to deal with the latest Russian-made anti-tank systems, latest radars and radio reconnaissance systems resistant to the effects [of] electronic counter measures.
In the same area [An-Najaf] a coalition checkpoint manned by the US Marines was attacked by a suicide bomber - an Iraqi soldier - who detonated a passenger car loaded with explosives next to the US troops. At least 5 of them were killed.
In a closed radio address to the coalition troops the coalition command asked the soldiers to show "patience and restrain" and "not to let loose their emotions and feelings of anger" [Reverse-translated from Russian.] The radio address was recorded following an incident in the area of Umm Qasr when, in plain view of the locals, British soldiers executed two Iraqis after finding a submachine-gun in their house; and after a US attack helicopter returning from a combat mission opened cannon fire on a passenger car and its occupants. It was announced [by the coalition] that both of these incidents will be investigated. However, military psychologists believe that these incidents are the result of the troops being subjected to enormous stress; psychologists say that these soldiers require medical treatment.
Near Basra the British forces have completely abandoned offensive operations and switched to positional warfare. Isolated attacks continue in the airport area - still not under full British control - and on the Fao peninsula where the Iraqis continue to hold a large staging area.
According to the British field commanders, the troops are extremely exhausted and are in dire need of rest and reinforcements. Three British soldiers went missing and two more were wounded in this area during the past 24 hours.
A supply convoy of the 3rd Motorized Infantry Division was ambushed last night to the south of An-Nasiriya. In the course of the attack 10 fuel trucks were destroyed, one escorting APC was hit, 8 troops were wounded and 1 is missing. So far it is not known who was behind the attack: the Iraqi army combat reconnaissance units or the partisans operating in this area.
Analysis of the information coming from the combat zone shows a rapid decline in the [coalition's] contacts with the media and increasing restrictions on all information except for the official reports. For example, since yesterday morning all phone and internet lines used by the coalition troops to maintain contact with relatives in the US and Europe have been shut down at the division level and below. Not only does this indicate that the coalition command is trying to change the course of the information war, but this also points to a possible upcoming massive coalition attack against the Iraqi forces and an attempt on the part of the [coalition] commanders to prevent any information leaks.
[Russian] analysts believe that all the talk about a "two-week timeout" in the war is nothing more than a disinformation attempt by the coalition. Forces and equipment currently available to the coalition will be sufficient for at least 1-2 weeks of active combat; this is comparable to the duration of a major combat operation. It is likely that such an operation may take place during the next day in the area of Karabela. Goals of this operations have already been discussed in previous reports.
At the same time the coalition is already planning a new large-scale operation that will utilize the new forces currently being deployed to the region. Based on our [Russian] intelligence and that of our allies [Russian] military experts believe that this large-scale operation will be launched from the general vicinity of Karabela and will develop into a wide maneuver around Baghdad from the west ending in the area of the Tartar lake east of Al-Hadid (or east of the Tartar lake at Samarrah). From this point a part of the force will continue advancing toward Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit and from there it will turn toward Baghdad from the north through Samarrah and Baahkuba; meanwhile the rest of the [coalition] force will strike the rears of the Iraqi forces fighting in the north near Kirkuk and Mosul. Such an operation would require up to 60,000 troops, no less than 300 tanks and 200 helicopters. It is believed that such forces can be put together by April 15 and by April 18 they should be ready to attack.
Certain available information points to a serious conflict between the coalition command and the US political and military leadership. The [US] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - the main planner and lobbyist of the military operation against Iraq - accuses the coalition command and Gen. Tommy Franks personally of being passive and indecisive, which [in Rumsfeld's opinion] led to the lengthening of the conflict and the current dead end situation. In his turn Franks in front of his subordinates calls the Secretary of Defense the "old blabbermouth" and an "adventurist" who dragged the army into the war on the most unfavorable terms possible. However, most [US military] officers believe that both military leaders are responsible for the coalition's military failures. Rumsfeld allowed gross errors during the planning of forces and equipment required for the war, while Franks did not show enough strength to get the right forces and the right training for the troops in this campaign and, in essence, surrendered to the whims of the politicians...
It is entirely possible that the future of this war will see the departure of one of these two commanders. Some reports suggest that Rumsfeld has already proposed to President Bush a change in the coalition command. However, Bush declined this proposal calling it untimely and damaging to the morale of the troops and that of the American people.
(Translation by Venik.)
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