|The Iraq War|
Report for 2003-04-04
By the morning of April 4 the situation on the US-Iraqi front showed a tendency toward stabilization. As the forward coalition units reach Baghdad they fulfill their primary orders outlined by the coalition command. During the four days of the advance elements of the US 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division have bypassed from the east the Iraqi defenses at Karabela and, without encountering any resistance, advanced around 140 kilometers along the Karabela-Baghdad highway and reached the Iraqi capital. However, the goals of this attack will be fully achieved only when the US Marine brigades, now advancing along the left bank of the Tigris, reach the southeastern outskirts of Baghdad.
All indications are that the breakthrough by the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division toward the Baghdad international airport, although a significant thrust forward, did not come as a surprise to the Iraqi command. The US units occupying the airport area did not encounter here any significant resistance (the airport was guarded by no more than 2-3 Iraqi companies without any heavy weapons) nor did they see any indication that the Iraqis were even planning on defending the airport. Except for the line of trenches along the airport's perimeter the US troops found no other defensive structures. The airport was clear from all aircraft with the exception of a few old fuselages and a passenger plane (possible belonging to a Jordanian airline company), which did not have time to leave the airport before the flight restrictions were announced by the coalition with the beginning of the war.
Currently the coalition group of forces in the airport area number up to 4,000 troops, up to 80 tanks and about 50 artillery systems. It should be expected that several helicopter squadrons from the 101st Airborne Division will be deployed here in the next several hours.
According to electronic surveillance the coalition command in Qatar ordered the attacking US forces to halt on at least three occasions. The command ordered additional reconnaissance to be done in the airport area fearing there may carefully concealed Iraqi units and extensive defenses. The coalition command issued the final order to capture the airport only when the coalition reconnaissance units contacted the command headquarters directly from the airport terminal. The Iraqi forces protecting the airport offered little resistance and after a few exchanges of fire withdrew toward the city. Communication was lost with one of the coalition units protecting the flanks of the advancing column. It is still being determined whether this unit got lost or if it encountered an ambush.
Around 0800hrs the US positions [in the airport area] were attacked by militia forces probably from among the local population. The militia was dispersed by tank and APC fire.
The 2nd brigade of the [3rd Mechanized Infantry] Division reached the southern outskirts of Baghdad and is currently located near the intersection of the Baghdad-Amman and Baghdad-Karabela highways.
The coalition claims of "completely destroying" the "Medina" (Al Madina al Munavvara) and the "Hammurabi" Republican Guard divisions of the 2nd Republican Guard Corps received no confirmation. No more than 80 destroyed Iraqi armored vehicles were found along the coalition's route of advance, which corresponds to about 20% of a single standard Iraqi Republican Guard division.
It has been determined that only a few forward elements of the "Hammurabi" Division participated in combat while [almost] the entire division withdrew toward Baghdad. A single brigade of the "Medina" division was involved in combat. The brigade was split in two groups during fighting and withdrew toward Baghdad and toward Karabela to join the main forces of the [Medina] division.
Equally unimpressive are the numbers of the Iraqis captured by the coalition. In four days of advance the US troops captured just over 1,000 people only half of whom, according to the reports by the US field commander, can be considered regular troops of the Iraqi army. There are virtually no abandoned or captured Iraqi combat vehicles. All of this indicates that so far there has been no breakthrough for the coalition; Iraqi troops are not demoralized and the Iraqi command is still in control of its forces.
No significant changes occurred at other Iraqi resistance areas.
Fighting is continuing at An-Nasiriya where the US troops are still unable to capture the part of the town on the left side of the river. Despite the announcement by the US command about the "near complete control of the city", exchanges of fire are continuing and just during the last day the US forces sustained one killed and no fewer than three wounded. The US troops are no longer trying to storm the areas [of An-Nasiriya] held by the elements of the Iraqi 11th Infantry Division, but instead use artillery and aviation to methodically destroy these areas.
The coalition was also unable to take the city of An-Najaf. The designated brigade of the 101st Airborne Division was able to take control only of the southern outskirts of the city and now has halted its advance using artillery and aviation to destroy the city blocks occupied by the Iraqi defenders. Intercepted radio communications indicate at least three killed or wounded US troops.
The Iraqis remain in control of Al-Hillah on the left side of the river. There are continuing exchanges of fire and the city is under a constant artillery barrage.
Nearly all fighting has stopped near Karabela, where the US forces limit their action to blockading the city and launching artillery attacks against Karabela's outskirts. The available US forces in this region are only sufficient for the blockade and for now no reinforcements can be expected. The 4th Infantry Division, currently unloading in Kuwait, will be able to move into Iraq no sooner than April 6. Additionally, the "newest" and the most modern division is actually only a partially-deployed force and numbers up to 12,000 troops - only about half the size of the 3rd Infantry Division already fighting in Iraq.
A tense situation remains near the town of An-Divania. According to radio surveillance, the coalition forces were forced out of the town and thrown back 3-5 kilometers as the result of a three-hour-long firefight. The US field commanders reported 2 lost tanks and up to 5 lost APCs. Some 7 [coalition] soldiers were killed, 4 are missing and up to 20 were wounded. During the past 24 hours coalition medevac helicopters flew more than ten missions to this area. As an emergency measure a 101st Airborne Division's battalion is currently being deployed to An-Divania. The town is under artillery and aircraft attacks.
With much difficulty the British marine infantry is advancing near Basra. However, despite their best efforts the British are only able to attack the outer defensive perimeter stretching along the Shatt-al-Basra canal. By this morning the British were finally able to take control of the bridge on the As-Zubair - Basra highway and to establish positions on the opposite side of the river. During the fighting one British tank was hit, one APC was destroyed and up to 10 soldiers were killed or wounded. Now the British are facing Basra's main defense lines located 1.5 kilometers ahead of them.
The Iraqis still control a portion of the Fao peninsula. Today the Iraqi artillery attacked the Al-Fao port. No casualty figures are currently available.
Radio surveillance reveals Iraqi resistance units fighting on the territories occupied by the British. A Kuwaiti radio source reported an attack last night resulting in a fire on one of the oil wells where the previous fire was just recently extinguished. Coalition troops deployed in Umm-Qasr come under regular automatic weapons fire during the night hours. Radio surveillance indicates that yesterday coalition troops conducted a massive operation in the town to find the resistance members.
In the north of Iraq the Kurdish units have stopped their advance after encountering resistance by the Iraqi troops. Kurdish field commanders told the US officers they will not go forward unless the Americans "clear the way" for them. There is information pointing to certain financial motives behind this attitude of the Kurdish commanders. The US Brig. Gen. Osman, who commands the US troops in this area, told one of the Pentagon officials during a phone conversation: "for them [the Kurds] to move forward we literally have to throw a stack of dollars in front of them!"
At the same time the "Patriotic Union of Kurdistan" leaders are trying to distance themselves from these [Kurdish] field commanders, calling them "uncontrollable borderline gangs" According to them [the Kurdish leaders] these rogue units number no more than 3000 fighters.
Information coming from Qatar indicates that the coalition command is seriously concerned with the possibility of another sand storm. Not only will this delay the blockade of Baghdad, but it will also leave the coalition without its major advantage - aviation, without which the coalition will be left one-on-one with a numerically superior enemy.
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