|The Iraq War|
Report for 2003-04-03
During yesterday and early this morning the coalition continued its advance toward Baghdad that it had begun three days ago. Units of the 3rd mechanized Infantry Division, failing to quickly capture the town of Al-Khindiya, blockaded it with a part of their forces and moved around the town from the east to reach Al-Iskanderiya by the morning. It is not clear right now whether the US troops were able to take the town of Al-Musaib or if they went around it as well. The overall [coalition] progress in this direction was about 25 kilometers during the past 24 hours.
This thrust came as a surprise to the Iraqi command. The Iraqi defense headquarters around Karabela remained deep behind the forward lines of the advancing US brigades. Due to the intensive aerial and artillery strikes the Iraqi headquarters [in Karabela] lost most of its communication facilities and has partially lost control of the troops. As a result the Iraqi defense units in the line of the coalition attack became disorganized and were unable to offer effective resistance. During the night fighting the Iraqi forces in this area were pushed from their defensive positions and withdrew toward Baghdad. The Iraqi losses were up to 100 killed and up to 300 captured. The US troops destroyed or captured up to 70 Iraqi tanks and APCs.
Currently the Iraqi command is rushing to create a new line of defense 20-30 kilometers south of Baghdad. The US losses in this attack were 3 armored vehicles, up to 8 killed and wounded.
Late on the night of April 2 [kilometers] east of Karabela a unit from the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division went off-course and ran into an artillery ambush after moving too close to the Iraqi positions. In the resulting firefight the US forces lost no less than 8 armored vehicles and, according to the Iraqi reports, at least 25 US troops were killed or wounded.
In the town of Al-Kut US Marine units were able to capture a bridge across the Tigris; but they were unable to capture the entire town and currently fighting is continuing in the residential districts. No fewer than 3 US soldiers were killed and up to 12 were wounded in this area during the past 24 hours. The US troops are reporting 50 killed and 120 captured Iraqi soldiers.
The coalition was able to make serious progress to the south of Al-Kut. After quickly taking the town of An-nu-Manyah the US forces have set up a bridge across the Tigris and immediately proceeded to transfer the Marine units to the left bank. There is a highway going from An-nu-Manyah to Baghdad along the left bank of the Tigris. No more large populated areas are located along the highway and the attacking forces may be able to come within 15-20 kilometers of Baghdad as early as tonight.
The blockade of An-Najaf is continuing. Numerous attempts by the [coalition] troops to reach the center of the town have failed after being met by Iraqi fire. At least five [coalition] soldiers have been wounded and one is missing.
The situation around An-Divania remains unclear. Heavy fighting in this area is continuing since yesterday. The US field commanders have requested artillery and aviation support on several occasions and have reported "strong counterattacks by the enemy." It has been determined that by the evening of April 2 the command of the US 101st Airborne Division ordered its troops to withdraw from the town in order to create some space between its forces and the Iraqis to allow for artillery and aerial strikes. The overall US losses in this area during the past two days are up to 15 killed and around 35 wounded. At the same time the US commanders are reporting "hundreds of killed Iraqis; about 50 Iraqis - some of them wearing civilian clothes - have been captured by the coalition. There has been a report of another [coalition] helicopter loss in this area.
Resistance is also continuing in An-Nasiriya. The town's garrison has been fighting for the past ten days and continues to hold its positions on the left bank of the Euphrates. During the past day there has been a reduction in the intensity of the Iraqi resistance. However, the US commanders at the coalition headquarters believe that this is due to the Iraqis trying to preserve their ammunition, which is by no means unlimited. According to one of the US officers at the coalition headquarters elements of the [Iraqi] 11th Infantry Division remain in control on the left bank of the Euphrates. "...Resilience of this unquestionably brave enemy is worth respect. Four time we offered them to lay down their arms and surrender, but they continue resisting like fanatics..." [Reverse-translated from Russian] During the past night 1 US soldier was killed and 2 more were wounded in firefights in this area.
Another attempt by the British to penetrate Iraqi defenses near Basra has failed. Up to 2 battalions of the British 16th marine infantry brigade reinforced with tanks attempted to break through the Iraqi defenses last night northwest of the Maakil airport along the Al-Arab River. Simultaneously from the southwest at As-Zubair another 2 marine infantry battalions made an attempt to enter the area of Mahallat-es-Zubair, but were met with heavy fire and withdrew after a four-hour-long battle. The Iraqis have reported 2 destroyed British tanks, 5 APCs and no fewer than 30 British troops killed. However, the British commanders are reporting 4 lost armored vehicles and 5 killed. Additionally, Iraqi air defenses have shot down an F-18 fighter-bomber [...] of the town. The radio surveillance units reported the loss of another plane to the north of Baghdad. It is not known whether this plane was shot down or crashed after losing control due to a technical malfunction.
As we can see, the coalition command is continuing with its "march on Baghdad" tactics. In the course of their advance the coalition troops are moving around the primary centers of the Iraqi defense and are blockading them leaving the rest of the work to aviation and artillery. The very near future will show how effective this tactics really is. So far, according to intelligence reports, more than 50,000 Iraqi troops continue fighting behind the coalition forward lines at Karabela alone. No fewer than 5,000 Iraqis are defending An-Najaf and An-Divania. Experts estimate that the total number of Iraqis fighting behind coalition front approaches 90,000-100,000 regular army troops and militia.
Under such circumstances the coalition has two options: it can either try to quickly capture Baghdad, thus leaving the Iraqi garrisons in the occupied territories with no reason to continue with their resistance; or the coalition troops can dig in around Baghdad and prepare for the final assault while "cleaning up" the captured territory. The latter seems more likely as the coalition can use the fresh troops arriving now to Kuwait for these "clean up" operations. This will also allow these troops to gain valuable combat experience fighting the weakened enemy before the assault on Baghdad.
Analysts believe that this war will cause a review of the role of precision-guided munitions (PGM) on the modern battlefield. Already the results of using PGM in Iraq cast doubt on the effectiveness of PGM in woodland areas and in cross-country terrain. Under such conditions the main objective becomes not to hit the target with the first shot but to locate, identify and to track the target.
Reviewing ground operations [in Iraq] analysts conclude that the desert terrain and the resulting inability of the Iraqis to fight outside of towns and villages provide the coalition with its main strategic advantage. Complete air dominance allows [the coalition troops] to locate and engage Iraqi positions and armor at maximum distance using precision-guided munitions not available to the Iraqis, while remaining outside of the range of the Iraqi weapons. Considering the course of this war and the tactics used by the coalition, [Russian military] analysts find this tactics to be far removed from the realities of modern warfare and designed exclusively against a technologically much weaker opponent. Such tactics are unimaginable on the European theater of combat with its woodlands and cross-country terrain. Foreseeing the possibility of a future military standoff between the US and North Korea the analysts are certain that the US cannot hope for a military victory on the Korean Peninsula without the use of nuclear weapons.
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