The Iraq War
Report for 2003-04-01

April 1, 2003, 1404hrs MSK (GMT +4 DST), Moscow - As of the morning of April 1 active combat operations continued along the entire US-Iraqi front.

The town of Karabela - one of the key points in the Iraqi defense - is subjected to a continuing artillery barrage. The town outskirts are being attacked by the coalition aviation. However, so far the US forces made no attempts to enter the town. Available information suggests that after evaluating Karabela's defenses the US command made a decision to delay storming the town. Orders were issued to the coalition troops to move around the town from the east and to take control of the strategic Al-Hillah, Al-Khindiya and Al-Iskanderiya regions. Several large highways are intersecting in this area, which also contains the three strategic bridges across the Euphrates. Gaining control of this "triangle" will finally open the way for the coalition troops into the valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates and the route to the Babylon-Baghdad highway. Yesterday and today early morning most heated combat continued in this area.

During a night attack the US forces were able to reach the center of Al-Khindiya by 0800hrs and to move to the right bank of the Euphrates. However, their further advance was stopped by heavy fire from the Iraqi positions across the river. Al-Khindiya is being defended by up to 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and militia armed with up to 20 tanks and around 250 anti-tank weapons of various types. During this battle one US soldier was killed, 2 were missing in action and seven were wounded. For now it is impossible to determine the Iraqi losses. Throughout the night the US field commanders have reported at least 100 killed and 30 captured Iraqi soldiers and militia members. However, by morning the number of captured was revised down to less than 15.

The [coalition] effort to capture Al-Hillah was unsuccessful. All attempts by the US troops to enter the town during the night have failed. Every time they were met with heavy Iraqi fire near the town. Intercepted radio communications show that one US APC was destroyed and at least 5 soldiers were killed and wounded.

Fighting is continuing near An-Najaf. The town is currently surrounded from three sides by the US Marines, who are still unable to enter the town. The Iraqi positions are being subjected to artillery and aerial bombardment. No information is available about any losses in this area.

Since 0700hrs reports are coming about large-scale attacks by the US Marines and infantry units against An-Nasiriya. As was previously expected, up to two Marine battalions deployed on the left bank of the river to the north of the town have begun advancing on An-Nasiriya from the north and are now trying to break the Iraqi defenses and to capture this strategic town. More than a hundred aerial strikes have been delivered against the Iraqi positions [at An-Nasiriya] just during this morning. There is a continuing artillery barrage. All this indicates the US Marines are determined to fulfill their orders and take the town. However, so far neither Marines nor the paratroopers were able to widen their staging area or to break through Iraqi defenses. Radio surveillance indicates that during the morning hours of today there were 5 medevac helicopter flights to this area. At least 3 US soldiers were killed.

Another US combat convoy crossed to the left bank of the Euphrates and by this morning reached the outskirts of the town of Ash-Shatra located 40 kilometers north of An-Nasiriya. This unit is now engaged in combat. For now there is no additional information about this convoy's losses or movements.

Localized fighting is continuing near Basra. Throughout last night and early this morning the British forces were making an attempt to capture the neighboring villages of As-Zubair and Suk-al-Shujuh, butdespite overwhelming artillery and aviation support, the British were forced to return to their original positions. During these battles 1 British soldier was killed, 1 is missing and up to 5 were wounded. No information is available about the Iraqi losses. According to the reports by the British, at least 200 Iraqi troops were killed and no less than 50 were captured. However, only under 10 captured Iraqis were delivered to the British camp and only 4 of them were in military uniform. This was reported by one of the US journalist located in this area during a phone conversation with the editor.

Active combat reconnaissance operations by both sides are continuing in the north of Iraq. There have been reports of an attack launched by an Iraqi battalion against the positions of a US combat unit from the 82nd Airborne Division. It was reported that during the night the Iraqis moved around the US position and in the morning attacked the US forces from the rear. A fierce exchange of fire is continuing in this area. The US forces have requested aviation support.

The combat activity of the Kurds supported by the US forces was limited to clearing several areas occupied by its long-time enemy - the militant Islamic group called "Ansar al Islam", after which the Kurdish units have stopped. Amid calls by the US military for a continuing offensive the Kurdish troops appear to be in no rush to engage the regular troops of the Iraqi army and are more interested in reaping the spoils of war. The Kurdish leadership is not particularly interested in "leading" the advancing forces. Instead they are calling on the US to strengthen the US forces deployed in this area. With at least another 2,000 paratroopers and to "bomb the Iraqis some more." This indicates that the Kurds are not willing to move their forces too far from the home bases fearing an attack in the back by the Turkish troops. Their fears are reinforced by the continuing assurances by the US to respect Turkey's territorial integrity. The term "territorial integrity" in this case covers almost 40% of the territory of the current Northern Kurdistan, which has de facto independence from Turkey and Iraq. It is likely that the Kurdish forces will move forward only after the complete military defeat of the Iraqis, when their desire for the war booty will make them less cautious.

Analysis of the present state of the US-British coalition fighting in Iraq suggests that the current active combat phase will last for about 4-5 days. After that the troops will once again require time for rest, repairs and reinforcement. Most analysts believe that this time the coalition will require more downtime than the last time, when it stopped for just long enough to get resupplied and immediately continued their advance so as not to lose the initiative and not to let the enemy come to their senses. The price of putting this "squeeze" on the troops is enormous exhaustion and extensive wear of equipment, which is long overdue for serious scheduled maintenance.

At the same time the fresh forces arriving in Kuwait from Europe and the US will not be able to join the combat before Monday April 7 as deployment of troops is progressing with many delays and is poorly organized. The units that have already arrived [in Kuwait] cannot get to their weapons and the weapons already delivered here are sitting here without the troops to which they are assigned.

Because of this the coalition command has ordered the attacking forces to be as aggressive as they can be to use this short time to break the Iraqi defenses along the entire line of the front. The troops are ordered by the end of this operation to advance to the starting positions for the final assault on Baghdad and to begin preparing to take the Iraqi capital. This order is specifically referring to the importance of An-Nasiriya, An-Najaf and the Karabela - Al-Hillah- Al-Iskanderiya "triangle". These areas will see the most combat action in the upcoming days.

Additionally, we should expect elements of the coalition forces reaching the Amman-Baghdad highway, currently controlled only by small US paratroop and special operations units and to form here in the area of Al-Khabbania the western side of Baghdad's blockade. The Al-Khabbania region also contains three strategic airfields and large stores of weapons causing serious concern on the part of the coalition.


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