Monday, November 15, 2004

After Action Report: Fallujah

The Battle of Fallujah has been brought to it's inevitable, successful conclusion. Although there is still the mopping up phase to resolve anywhere from 1200 to 2000 insurgents have been killed. Regrettably approximately 38 US and Iraqi soldiers have lost their lives, the sad price for necessary work. Nonetheless, I had been surmising casualties to be between the mid-20's to as many as 100 depending on whether the insurgents had an unforeseen stroke of luck. By the will of Allah, such fortune never came to the jihadis.

The kill ratio is as stunning as it is telling. First of all the insurgents have had months to fortify the city, lay booby-traps and plan their defenses; all for nought. The Coalition could not be halted and their technical and tactical expertise nullified the insurgents' advantages in ways that could not be conceived of by the jihadis.

Compared to the failed Russian attempts to secure the Chechen capital of Grozny back in 1999 our victory over Fallujah will act as the model of modern urban warfare. In 1999 the Russians slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians in a civil war that managed to cost them thousands of their own men in a war that they ultimately lost once public opinion refused to sustain the mounting casualties.

This is more than a, "We're smarter than you are" moment; this is significant, especially in light of the "Blackhawk Down" Mogadishu moment in Somalia. This battle convinced both Saddam and bin Laden that America had no belly for a fight. Saddam even distributed copies of the movie to his commanders hoping to use it as a model for breaking America' willingness to engage in protracted battles. November 2nd and the battle just concluded have shown that timidity was merely an eight-year lapse in judgment--not an enduring American trait. Three years into a war without a seeming end, with unprecedented negative coverage from domestic news outlets and hostile world opinion is not enough to cow the American people and her sons are the best goddam warriors this planet will ever have the honor to see.

The Belmont Club had particularly good coverage of the methods used to secure the city including some of the new weapon systems fielded. No point in writing my own, Wretchard has pretty much exhausted all possibilities and all I could do would be to re-invent the wheel. Of particular interests is the discussion of the chain of cities and towns used by the insurgents. The rundown of coverage by Wretchard includes:

War Plan Orange

The Preparations for the Fallujah Assault

The Assault Begins

The Banner of Zarqawi

Fallujah Again

The Enemy Starts to Collapse

Hell In A Very Small Place

River War

River War 2

I am inclined to call this action a war completely distinct and separate from the one we fought in March-April of 2003. It has too many unique characteristics. First of all, we're not fighting against the Iraqi government, we're fighting alongside of them. Second, we're fighting primarily for Iraqi national interests; our interest in this fight is to see the Iraqis successfully establish a free and peaceful society for themselves, thus US objectives are only ancillary to Iraqi independence. Third, the war of 2003 saw the logistics coming from Saddam's regime; by contrast the thugs of 2004 draw their support from Iran and Syria. Fourth, the insurgents are not a national army, but a loosely organized guerrilla army. Fifth, the Iraqi population is free enough to decide which side it would like to see prevail in this fight and they have resoundingly lent their support to the government of interim PM Allawi. In 2003 the Iraqis were a captive audience, their support for Saddam's resistance to the Coalition was axiomatic, now they have decided they will no longer be ruled by thugs and they have decided that fighting beside the soldiers and marines of the US is the best way to secure that vision. Sixth, it was Allawi, not President Bush that gave the "Go" order. More precisely he gave clearance for the military commanders to act, i.e. letting slip the dogs of war, but had that order not come from him, there would not have been a battle (I wonder if he delayed the fight until after the election to spare GWB 2.0 the threat of a possible mishap. If so that means Mr. Allawi knows who was best for the independent future of Iraq--very telling). For these reasons and more I have dubbed this "action" the Iraqi War for Independence (IWI).

The battle we have just witnessed may well be called the Gettysburg/Midway of the IWI. It is a watershed moment. Worse case estimates of insurgent strength gives the terrorists 10,000 men; Fallujah just cost them twenty to 30 percent of that manpower. If they only have several thousand men then they may have lost half their ranks. Eitehr way this is a near crippling blow.

So crippling that the insurgents have been forced to stage attacks in other cities. The purpose is twofold: first, they want to force the Coalition to slow or stop its assault on Fallujah, and they want to show the common Iraqi that they, the terrorists, are to still be feared. After the ease with which Samarra fell the insurgents had to resort to this dual-sided tactic. They are losing men, resources, safe havens and prestige rather quickly. It's about to get worse for them.

Attacking in Mosul or anywhere else means exposure. They have just lost a major logistics and command center. Maintaining an offensive that is primarily for propaganda purposes now that Fallujah has fallen means they are exposing men for no real strategic purpose. The attackers will be repelled, then tracked and defeated at their new bases. These bases now lack the investments that made Fallujah what it was.

As they attack piecemeal the terrorists will be defeated piecemeal but their networks will be compromised and exploited. The collapse will continue at an accelerated pace. I anticipate that the Iraqi citizenry will bare the brunt of the insurgents' mounting frustrations so for the near future expect more bombings, increasing both in frequency and inhumanity. This will rob the guerrillas of the one more element every guerrilla movement requires: popular support. Still, it is all these thugs know. Expect more phone calls by common folk to US and Iraqi government offices explaining where the jihadis can be found. After the spate of attacks die down the insurgents will fizzle.

To be updated as events and emerging information warrant...or whenever a thought strikes me.

UPDATE: The citizens of Fallujah were living in hell. The miserable sods are to be pitied, but at least the nightmare is mostly over. Now that the vipers nest has been de-viper-ized we can move in with public works projects and get their economy rolling again. Hearts and minds, people, don't ever forget that.

UPDATE: Back in April four contractors from Blackwater Security Corp. were murdered, mutilated and dragged through the streets of Fallujah before their bodies were finally hung from the supports of a bridge. The Coalition assaulted the city but were ultimately pulled back over political concerns for civilian casualties adn a desire to divide the insurgents through near-Machiavellian negotiations. With the final liberation iof the city the Marines revosited the bridge of the ghastly murder and wrote, "This is for the Americans of Blackwater that were murdered here in 2004, Semper Fidelas. PS F*** You"

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Indeed.

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