The Seattle Times and the Telegraph gives excellent narratives on the tactics used by the Marines and Army forces tasked to retake Fallujah. These articles also provide insight on the overall strategy to destroy the insurgents in Fallujah.
Matthew McAllester of Newsday is embedded with the 2nd Battalion of the Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment, and describes the sophistication and lethality of the Coalition forces arrayed against Fallujah. The American way of war is deadly as the battlefield is integrated. UAVs pinpoint targets, transmit coordinates and images to field commanders, and the orders are quickly given to destroy the enemy position.
In the command tent of 2nd Battalion, Rainey and intelligence officers watched a computer screen that displayed a live feed from an unmanned drone aircraft flying over the city with powerful cameras and positioning systems. From the tent, the officers could see four insurgents firing mortars – the white flash showing up in the backyard of a house – and then moving quickly through the streets. Two of the men appeared to be carrying weapons, probably Kalashnikov rifles. From a few dozen yards away, the 2nd Battalion’s mortar team fired into the sky, a bang followed by the whiz of the projectile heading toward the city in an arc. Several seconds later, booms echoed back across the desert to this forward base.
On the streets of Fallujah, Coalition forces are using mine clearing technologies designed to clear minefields in open terrain to reduce the threat of IEDs and booby traps on the dangerous streets of the city. I suspect the M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) is being deployed in this manner. If so, this is an innovative use of existing technology and another example of the creativity and adaptability of the American soldier.
On this front, Maj. Tim Karcher, the battalion’s operations officer, said the battalion would use a mine-clearing explosive device before advancing through the front line. The Army thinks the area is likely to be heavily mined and booby-trapped. The primary aim of the full-scale pounding of the front line of homes is to kill the triggermen of the remote-control bombs that are likely to prove the biggest threat to American and Iraqi army forces pushing into the city.
The Telegraph reports on Toby Harnden as he accompanies the 1st Infantry Division taskforce. Soldiers are using the Long Range Acquisition System to identify and bracket insurgents from long distances, and direct deadly sniper and mortar fire to level the buildings being used as enemy bases of operations.
As they approached their “holding position”, from where hours later they would advance into the city, they picked off insurgents on the rooftops and in windows. “I got myself a real juicy target,” shouted Sgt James Anyett, peering through the thermal sight of a Long Range Acquisition System (LRAS) mounted on one of Phantom’s Humvees. “Prepare to copy that 89089226. Direction 202 degrees. Range 950 metres. I got five motherf****** in a building with weapons.”
Capt Kirk Mayfield, commander of the Phantoms, called for fire from his task force’s mortar team. But Sgt Anyett didn’t want to wait. “Dude, give me the sniper rifle. I can take them out – I’m from Alabama.” Two minutes tick by. “They’re moving deep,” shouted Sgt Anyett with disappointment. A dozen loud booms rattle the sky and smoke rose as mortars rained down on the co-ordinates the sergeant had given. “Yeah,” he yelled. “Battle Damage Assessment – nothing. Building’s gone. I got my kills, I’m coming down. I just love my job.”
As the city has been mainly cleared of civilians, the Coalition forces are exercising the extreme use of force against enemy combatants. Superior firepower is the order of the day; the soldiers are not taking risks and are eliminating the need to inspect vehicles and enter buildings by destroying them if they are deemed threatening.
A Phantom Abrams tank moved up the road running along the high ground. Its barrel, stencilled with the words “Ali Baba under 3 Thieves” swivelled towards the city and then fired a 120mm round at a house where two men with AK-47s had been pinpointed. “Ain’t nobody moving now,” shouted a soldier as the dust cleared. “He rocked that guy’s world.”
One of Phantom’s sniper teams laid down fire into the city with a Barrett .50 calibre rifle and a Remington 700. A suspected truck bomb was riddled with bullets, the crack of the Barrett echoing through the mainly deserted section of the city. The insurgents fired 60mm mortars back, one of them wounding a soldier.
There were 25mm rounds from Phantom’s Bradley fighting vehicles, barrages from Paladin howitzers back at Camp Fallujah and bursts of fire from .50 calibre machineguns. One by one, the howitzers used by the insurgents were destroyed.”
The strategy to retake Fallujah is communicated to Mr. Harnden and Mr. McAllester. The plan is to segment sections of Fallujah, and drive the insurgents into isolated areas. The Jolan neighborhood will be the location of the final stand for the insurgents and terrorists still held up in the city, as small pockets of resistance are mopped up by Iraqi and American forces. According to the Telegraph:
[T]he plan to invade Fallujah involved months of detailed planning and elaborate “feints” designed to draw the insurgents out into the open and fool them into thinking the offensive would come from another side of the city. “They’re probably thinking that we’ll come in from the east,” said Capt Natalie Friel, an intelligence officer with task force, before the battle. But the actual plan involves penetrating the city from the north and sweeping south.
“I don’t think they know what’s coming. They have no idea of the magnitude,” she said. “But their defences are pretty circular. They’re prepared for any kind of direction. They’ve got strong points on all four corners of the city.” The aim was to push the insurgents south, killing as many as possible, before swinging west. They would then be driven into the Euphrates.
The Seattle Times verifies the information presented above:
Before the battle began, commanders explained there would be two main prongs to the offensive, one directly into Jolan and another arcing through the city from the northeast to the south of Jolan. They hope the entire warren-like neighborhood will be cut off. Once inside, the 2nd Battalion will establish forward operating bases and target specific areas that its intelligence says are likely to be holdouts of the insurgents.
The operation appears to be proceeding as planned, with Coalition forces reaching their objective of Route 10, the main highway splitting Fallujah, and isolating Jolan from the rest of the city. Even though the lay of the land and the urban environment works in the defender’s favor, the insurgents cannot stand against the onslaught of the Coalition. Their defenses are fragmenting and the resistance is reduced to roving groups of gunmen unable to mount a serious defense.
[Lt. Gen. Thomas] Metz said the initial assault broke the “outer crust” of insurgent resistance, and now fighters had split up into small groups for running battles. On Tuesday, heavy street clashes were raging in Fallujah’s northern neighborhoods. By midday, U.S. armored units had made their way to the highway running east-west through the city’s center and crossed over into southern Fallujah, a major milestone.
Small bands of gunmen – fewer than 20 – were engaging U.S. troops, then falling back in the face of overwhelming fire from American tanks, 20mm cannons and heavy machine guns, said Time magazine reporter Michael Ware, embedded with troops. Ware reported that there appeared to be no civilians in the area he was in.
Iraqi troops are playing an important role in the assault, providing troops to secure the sections of Fallujah that would give easy propaganda to news outlets sympathetic to the cause of the insurgents.
Iraqi troops seized several mosques in the city and uncovered weapons caches, Metz said. “Iraq forces are leading the attack through culturally sensitive areas,” Maj. Gen. Abdul Qader Mohan, appointed by Allawi to lead Iraqi forces in Fallujah, said. “Areas with schools, hospitals and mosques (will be) under the operational control of the Iraqi army.”
As Chester has indicated, this is a well planned and well thought out operation. The decision to use Iraq troops to deal with the sensitive areas of Fallujah is a masterful stroke, as it reduces the political liabilities and media images of American soldiers attacking Arab schools, mosques, shrines and other institutions. The only downside to the long planning phase is the potential escape of Zarqawi and other senior leaders of al Qaeda that were operating in Fallujah. Many political considerations were made when planning the Second Battle of Fallujah, and a price for successful elections in January may be the escape of Zarqawi. But if Fallujah is denied to Zarqawi, his base of operations is shrunk, and he certainly isn’t upholding his image as a mighty warrior of Islam by retreating from the field of battle.
(Note: I will update the map in the post below with any changes and place it on its own webpage later this evening.)
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