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  • The Roads to Baghdad

    The Roads to Baghdad.

    On the News yesterday they were saying that the US might be persuaded to hold off the Invasion to allow Mr. Blix & Co. more time to deal with the situation. President Bush is coming under a lot of pressure to delay any attack, maybe for a period of months. Well we all know that is not going to happen. However it is likely that either in his State of the Union Address next Tuesday or after his meeting with Tony Blair on Wednesday he will announce a deadline date for Iraq to comply fully with the UN or else immediate military operations will commence. This extension could be in the region of two to four weeks. IMO an attack will have to begin no later than the first week in March or else the momentum behind the whole enterprise is in danger of slipping away.

    How and ever, the sequencing of the attack on Iraq has obviously been planned in meticulous detail with the Air component opening the War by massive air strikes at military and strategic targets. Probably simultaneously the US & British Special Forces will move in to stake out landing sites for Airborne drops and to eliminate any chances of Iraq launching its remaining Scuds at Israel or a CB attack on the assembling coalition ground forces. It is highly likely indeed that small Coalition SF units are already deployed inside Iraq right now.

    So we come to the launching of the land battle. Right from the start an advance on Baghdad from Kuwait becomes a difficult operation to undertake against even moderate resistance. If as appears likely the Allies decide to seize and secure Basra the Iraqis might blow the very large oil fields on their side of the border. While this would not stop the Allied troops it would hamper operations and be ‘ Propaganda Coup’ of sorts for Saddam. Almost certainly the Allies will attempt to forestall this by a pre-emptive strike against these with the Airborne troops initially, followed land units. This would probably be on time with the start of the Air War.

    Once the troops have crossed the border then there is no real point in waiting around so as Basra is only 50kms from there I think the ground forces will quickly advance on the city while the Shia population stages a timed revolt against the Sunni garrison, which I presume is based there. The British commando units are supposed to be slotted in for a role in this too but that might be a ploy. I think once Basra is secure the Allies will deploy further forces into Iraq as they arrive. It looks like from the deployment sequence that a number of US/UK units will not be fully in theatre and ready for combat until mid-March. However there will be enough on hand to launch the Basra operation by mid February. Though I think sometime between 23 February 3 March will see the launching of serious military operations against Iraq.

    With Basra secure the military problem will be to move a very large combat force of perhaps six to eight divisions northwards to Baghdad and if necessary take the city in the face of determined Iraqi resistance. If you look at a map of Iraq you will see that the Euphrates - Tigris Valley is crisscrossed by a network of canals, rivers and obviously irrigation ditches. This kind of terrain is not conducive to large-scale military operations by heavily laden troops, tanks and AMVs. It would be all too easy for the Iraqis to blow the bridges along the roads leading north and even to open the waterways to bring about flooding. Even a depth of a couple of feet over a wide area would severely hamper movement.

    I wonder though if General Franks has not got a more audacious plan up his sleeve, perhaps in the tradition of Generals Lee and Grant or General McArthur. They all deployed what is called the ‘Strategy of the Indirect Approach’ in their conduct of operations. Might not a quicker and more cost free approach be to swing west from the vicinity of An Nasiriyah and sweep northwards on the WESTERN side of the Euphrates. The river is wide enough at this point to be used as a barrier against any attempt by the Iraqis to attack the long flank that would inevitably develop. With the bridges down the Iraqis would not be able to push significant forces across the rive line anyway.
    The ground here, according to the Global security web site anyway, is good going for tanks. Within a matter of days the Allied Main Force would be approaching the Shia heartland around the Holy cities of Najaf, then Karbala. I think by that stage the Shia population might well take matters into their own hands and revolt.

    General Franks would then have to decide whether it would be best to take the shorter route and advance on Baghdad from Karbala and Al Hillah, which would bring his Army to the southern gates of the city. Alternatively he could swing a bit more north and cross the Euphrates at Al Fallujah, approximately 45 kilometers from the western suburbs. If Saddam has still managed to stay in power by this stage the Allies could then begin the assault on the city from an unexpected angle, where the defenses are more likely to be less than from the more obvious southern route.

    Does anyone else have any information or opinions on what way they think this might go?
    http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

  • #2
    Until recently I was sure the air attacks would begin between Tuesday and the 31th, before Germany takes over the head of the secuirty council.

    However, by now it seems a delay is likely. I cannot judge over the political issues, but if you look at the ongoing deployments on various websites (i.e. globalsecurity.org), you see the US simply didn't manage to get all the material into position.

    While they appeared to have succeeded in prepositioning primary combat vehicles (M1s, Bradeleys, and probably artillery), and the plan for the frontline unit;s soldiers is obviously to fly them in with commercial airliners, you can see that a lot of equipment is still on the way. In special, there seems to be plenty of Army aviation which is only loaded onto ships right now. And there are so many support units underway that I doubt they can begin without *all* of them..

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    • #3
      Yes I thought the war would begin this week too, but that was before Xmas.
      Also it's only when I took a close look at the map that I realised how difficult the terrain is in the ET valley.
      http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

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      • #4
        There's another aspect: frontage space

        There is a substancial problem with space to advance from. Turkey and Jordan have been unwilling (but see below). How many divisions can attack out of Kuweit simultaneously? 2? 3? Definitivly not more.

        So, how likely is it that the US planned to advance with few divisions first to capture decent starting positions inside Iraq? I'm speaking of a multi-week gap between this move and the real attack out of the newly gained space.

        So, combining all these factors I think that the original US plan might have assumed no space from Turkey or Jordan and attack with few divisions first as outlined. But now that Turkey and Jordan appear to cooperate and allow substancial deployments (in the case of Turkey about 1.5 divisions) there wouldn't be such a strong need anymore.

        I wouldn't be surprised if the new US policy of "maybe wait a little" is a result of the new Turkey and maybe Jordan space (besides the policital issues).

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        • #5
          Just heard tonight that Turkey had agreed at last to allow the Allies to deploy from there. A force of 20,000 was mentioned. Didn't hear any mention of Jordan agreeing to anything but I'm not surprised. It's well known that British and US SP forces have been training there alongside the Jordanian troops. It is likely that Jordan will be used as an SP Ops base for raids into western Iraq to stop the Scuds from hitting Israel.

          It makes sense that at least some troops are committed to the northern front. Along side the Kurds this should give Saddam something to worry about, as he will be forced to commit troops to the defense of Mosul and Kirkuk. I'd say the US put it to the Turks that if things were left as they were it would allow the Kurds a free hand in the North, something that the Turkish Gov. would be none to happy about. No doubt there will be a military/financial package offered by Uncle Sam to smooth over ruffled feathers. Expect to see either the RMC units or the British Paras being committed to the Northern Front.
          http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

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          • #6
            From what I assembled from various more or less reliable sites:

            Turkey originally didn't want US force to move into Iraq from north because they were thinking the US would ask them to do the northern part and they would sit on the northern oil fields afterwards. Apparently the US have driven the message home that this is not going to happen. They now came to an agreement, no doubt with the help of promising a big piece of the Iraqi oil pie. It is about one division prestationed in Turkey (for weeks) and one other is allowed to travel through northern turkey, directly from airbases into Iraq after the war has started. I think noone here has illusions that the US will likely push the envelope here once everything is underway, so there may be room for more forces.

            Can anybody confirm that General Myers (Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff) has been in Turkey last week? That would give a clue about the reliablity of this info.

            Debka.org (yes, I know...), also claims the troops to move from Turkey will be parts of 4th infantry and from 101st airborne. This I think we can dismiss as nonsense, the 4th ID will for sure not be split up for whatever operation may come.

            Jordan is said to secretely been convinced by Israeli guarantees for the support for current rulers and by US confirmation that the attack on Iraq will happen, and soon. If so, I think the Jordan committment can be held pretty secret because most likely they will only function as a forward staging area for airmobile forces (which would seize Western Iraq to capture rocket sites and afterwards be supplied by air, not using Jordan space).

            I apologize for spreading less than perfectly thight sources, but for me most of this fits together with other current announcements and current US official behaviour. I would be surprised if we see anyting else than a big ground hammer and substancial light forces from all over the place by the end of February, and that means no matter what everybody else in the world (including the British) thinks. The US are now committed with promises to Iraq neightbours they will not break, short of planning to live without any oil the next 50 years.
            Last edited by Redwolf; 26 Jan 03, 15:17.

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            • #7
              I don't believe Meyers went to Turkey last week. However, that doesn't mean Turkey isn't planning to open bases for the US. Both countries have a long standing relationship. Turkey's main concern is the security of their own borders, and more importantly, protecting their trade status with Iraq. Saddam has threatened Turkey that if it supports the US attack, Iraq will no longer trade with them. However, since he will not be calling the shots anymore, Saddam's threat is meaningless. What the Turkish government want is a promise from the new government, which is more relevant. If they don't have the assurance, Turkey can expect it, among other things soon.

              Bush is running out of time. The war probably can start for at least another two weeks. We still need to move forces into position. If the war doesn't end before April, our troops will be placed at greater risk. As Pike said, it's February-March if ever. Bush could wait until November/December, but that's too close to elections. Remember, he is likely running for office again in 2004. He want's to give himself time to deal with Iraq and settle the enconomy (which will be effected by the war). All Saddam has to do is place more doubt in his level of cooperation. If I were him, I would turn over some WMDs, and promise to do more. That would really screw Bush over.

              A pro-longed air campaign proceeding a ground offensive is very dangerous. Saddam knows for certain the mission OBJ and would probably not hesitate to use his chemical weapons against Israel.

              We need to hit Saddam so fast he can't react. There can be no kind of hesitation. When invasion starts, most of our forces will likely focus more on seizing terrain than defeating the Iraqi military. Once we have most of the country under our control, we can then focus on defeating the heavy forces. Back in November, CNN reported military commanders want to have most of the country under their control within the first 48hrs. We'll then turn to mop up pockets of resistance and seize OBJ Baghdad.
              "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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              • #8
                I think with Jordan onside, One of the primary initial objectives will be to seize the western desert of Iraq to prevent Scud launches on Israel.
                The possibility of Israel jumping into the fray in response to a Scud attack is one aspect that truly worries the US administration. Israel has already said they would respond massively (read nuke) in the case of an attack by WMDs.

                With the quiet aquiesence of Jordan, any troops holding advance bases in the western desert could be easily supplied.
                Scientists have announced they've discovered a cure for apathy. However no one has shown the slightest bit of interest !!

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                • #9
                  Deltapooh:

                  Do you think it is possible to seize most of Iraq in 48hrs? I do not think so. It is over 500 kms from The Kuwait border to Baghdad. Even allowing for an excellent rate of advance of say 40/50 kms a day and minimal opposition that’s around 10 days just to reach the outskirts of the city.
                  As I said earlier a 'left hook' strategy might work out best after Basra is secured. Even to take and secure Basra would probably take 48/72 hrs minimum. As if now looks likely the 101st + the British 16th Airborne, US ranger battalions + maybe the Stryker (?) brigade are committed to the Northern and Western fronts these forces will have to be handled with care, because if any hitches occur they will be out on a limb. I know they are excellent forces but politicians being politicians I don't think Mr Bush and Mr Blair will want any political fallout to come their way from military setbacks, no matter how small. My hunch at this moment is that ground operations will begin in tandem with the start of the air war. This will see forces deployed into western Iraq while a ground offensive takes Basra. This should if the plan works see Saddam’s regime weakened while the ground forces gather around Basra area. While this is taking place the Air components of the Invasion force will be pounding Iraqi positions up and down the country. Once the advance on Baghdad commences the allied northern force will begin to move south to secure the northern oil fields from Saddams sabotage squads and to keep the Kurds from taking over on their own. A real race against time that one!
                  Even the indirect strategy I proposed is not of course risk free. Advancing on the right bank of the Euphrates towards Baghdad entails crossing numerous wadis in the rainy season. The Army engineers will be kept busy no matter which way they go as at least some of these would have to be bridged and maybe also the Euphrates itself. If the main advance on the Iraqi capital is from the direction of Karbala and Al Hillah then the River is not as wide than further north should General Franks decide on the more northern route to approach the city from the West through Al Fallujah.

                  Can anyone think of a better strategy?
                  http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Do you think it is possible to seize most of Iraq in 48hrs?

                    Personally, no. (Although it would be nice.) I don't think we could take Baghdad in 48hrs even if most of the Iraqis layed down their arms.

                    However, we could get alot done in a forty-eight hour span. The Iraqis will likely abandon most of Western Iraq. We could seize this terrority without encountering much resistance. I also believe we could split the Iraqi Northern and Southern Armies in two. This would cause a serious problem for the Iraqis since it prevents them from be able to support one another using the highways between Baghdad and Basra (for example).

                    Saddam has already fixed most of his forces in static defensive positions in any case. So all we have to is make certain they can't move then crush them.

                    Yet, seizing all of Iraq in such a short period of time is unrealistic. First, we are going to have major trouble supplying our forces. Logistics hasn't changed much in the past 12 years. Powell wanted to attack as far west as possible. However, Coalition logistic commanders said a 500km front could not be supported. VIIth Corps was almost always minutes away from running out of gas. The last thing we want to do is stall. Our troops will be sitting ducks.

                    I also believe we would abandon common sense tactically if we tried such a speedy assault. We can't just press the accelator and let the vehicles race at max speed. Our forces should only move as fast as their slowest necessary asset. Most of the way, we might not experience much resistance. However, I believe we should have full combat power available to destroy the enemy when we do.

                    7-10 days is a good estimation IMHO. You should also tact on another 3-4 weeks of consolidation. So we could get alot done in 48hrs. However, we should not get stupid and ignore the rules of war.
                    "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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                    • #11
                      I am not convinced the US will even try to move as fast as in Desert Storm.

                      The hurry in desert storm came from the desire to trap the troops occupying Kuweit and the Republican Guard troops oriented towards Kuweit. Air power at the time was not belived to be able to completely sever movement, this is why the Airborne corps first cut the main road and the main body of troops then struck soon.

                      In 2003 however, airpower (with modernized observation) will disable all movement on part of the Iraqies, with the possible exception of convoys pretending to be civiual/refugees. But the throughput of such a convoy would be limited. I also expect the US will be able to cut Iraqi communications more throughougly.

                      I think that at the start of hostilities (that means air attack) the Iraqi army will be in their final places one way or another.

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                      • #12
                        We must not forget his WMD's. I hear the Iraqi's even have guns, real ones. It was rumoured that they could even have access to several vehicles, perhaps tractors. Last reports indicated that two rather large men carrying sticks could defeat the Iraqi army, but we will just have to wait and see on that one. One thing is certain, it will be like taking candy from a baby, but with countless civilian deaths as well.

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                        • #13
                          We must not forget his WMD's. I hear the Iraqi's even have guns, real ones. It was rumoured that they could even have access to several vehicles, perhaps tractors. Last reports indicated that two rather large men carrying sticks could defeat the Iraqi army, but we will just have to wait and see on that one. One thing is certain, it will be like taking candy from a baby, but with countless civilian deaths as well.

                          No military operation is like taking candy from a baby. Just last week, Saddam's son said any invasion of Iraq would make 9/11 miniscule in the scale of US lives lost. So obvisously they have alot more than a few guns and tractors.

                          The Gulf War wasn't easy. The RGFC mounted a well-thoughtout withdrawal, and followed doctrine. While we did reduce their defensive lines easily, that doesn't mean they were not appropriate. Had the Iraqis committed to their defense strategy things might have turned out differently.

                          Tradegically you are correct about the civilian casualties. Offically, the US project around 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties I believe. Others have suggested a number around 500,000. However, in reality, everything depends on what type of defense the Iraqis use. If they don't use chemical weapons and fight us in the desert, I don't expect many non-combatant casualties. On the otherhand, should they resist in cities with chemical weapons, alot of people might die.

                          In 2003 however, airpower (with modernized observation) will disable all movement on part of the Iraqies, with the possible exception of convoys pretending to be civiual/refugees. But the throughput of such a convoy would be limited. I also expect the US will be able to cut Iraqi communications more throughougly.

                          I think that at the start of hostilities (that means air attack) the Iraqi army will be in their final places one way or another.


                          I don't have much confidence in airpower to immobilize an army. It didn't work well against FRY. Once the enemy elects to defend in the city, aircraft's can not attack at will. Structures limit mil. There is also the NC risks. We don't want to pile on the dead.

                          I believe the best way to cut those communication lines is to put troops on them. And while I agree the Iraqis will be in static defenses, that is still a problem for our efforts. We must take key terrain to deny the Iraqis fire positions on Israel. If the Coalition wants to pound the Iraqis with airpower first, they should at least mount an assault to seize and hold the west. Then allow airstrikes to lay waste to the enemy.
                          Last edited by Deltapooh; 27 Jan 03, 14:11.
                          "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Deltapooh
                            No military operation is like taking candy from a baby. Just last week, Saddam's son said any invasion of Iraq would make 9/11 miniscule in the scale of US lives lost.
                            Just like the first 'Mother of all Battles'?

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                            • #15
                              Who you kidding Delta....the next war will be ten times easier than the last one. Every single Iraqi AFV will be destroyed from the air before any ground war starts, every possible target will be attacked with smart bombs and cruise at least a dozen times. It will be the ultimate war of technology, no soldering just technology.

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