US finalises plan for Iraqi occupation

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 21:25:47 +0100

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 ? The American military is training furiously and
polishing a plan for attacking Baghdad that calls for isolating the city
and then taking control of it by seizing or destroying Saddam Hussein's
pillars of power ? but avoiding house-to-house combat in its hostile
streets. 

The new strategy is a significant change in Pentagon doctrine. In World
War II, the American military dealt with the difficult question of urban
combat by using heavy artillery, intense fire-bombing and, twice over
Japan, even atomic weapons. Since the war, the strategy had been to
isolate urban areas, then move on to other targets. 

Today, commanders still say they would rather avoid fighting in Baghdad
and other Iraqi cities, which could result in thousands of American
casualties and even more civilian deaths. But now, with Republican Guard
units digging in around Baghdad, they may have no choice should Mr.
Hussein and his die-hard adherents choose to make a last stand. 

If they must fight there, American generals say, they will choose their
targets carefully and try to overwhelm them with such decisive force
that the Iraqis' will to fight collapses. 

To that end, marines are training in new mock cities on military bases
on Guam and in southern California. At an Army training center in
Louisiana, more than 3,000 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division,
based at Fort Drum, N.Y., prepared today for an overnight attack Tuesday
on another fake city. 

At the same time, intelligence agencies are rushing to update military
maps using high-resolution satellite photographs, military officials
say. They have also asked foreign construction companies for blueprints
of the palaces and ministry buildings they built for Mr. Hussein. 

In just the past few years, the whole American doctrine of urban warfare
has changed. Where the strategy had been either to avoid cities or to
destroy them, under the new doctrine the Pentagon's goal would be to
isolate the cities, then selectively attack the pillars of the
government. Fighting block by block is considered too risky and too
likely to cement popular defiance. Rather, the military hopes Mr.
Hussein's government would implode as he loses control over his
loyalists. 

That approach requires accurate intelligence, tight coordination and
rapid movement by the attacking forces. It also calls for faith that
civilians would welcome their "liberation," as Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld has suggested. 

Even if Baghdad fell, a bloody urban battle with a high civilian toll
could be seen as a political failure for the Bush administration ? at
home and throughout the Middle East. 

Senior military officials say American troops are prepared to fight and
win in the cities of Iraq, but they are planning on ways to avoid that
kind of Pyrrhic victory. 

"If we got into the situation where there was combat in the city, I'm
comfortable that our forces know how to do that even though we prefer to
prevent that from happening," said Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, who commanded a Marine rifle platoon during the
vicious fight to oust the North Vietnamese Army from Hue in 1968. 

What worries the generals is how cityscapes rob the American military of
many of its overwhelming advantages. Even guided long-range bombs can be
risky to use in dense cities. Radios often do not work. The best
surveillance equipment cannot always find enemies in alleys. 

The broad details are spelled out in a document called "Joint
Publication 3-06: Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations." The paper was
completed just one month ago by the Joint Staff, and incorporates
lessons learned in the American missions in Mogadishu, Somalia;
Belgrade, Serbia; and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and in the Russian fight
for Grozny, the capital of Chechyna. [The document is online at
nytimes.com/iraq.] 

The "multidimensional surveillance" it calls for is already under way,
pinpointing political and military headquarters, electrical and water
supplies, food distribution centers and broadcast studios ? as well as
places like mosques, embassies and Red Cross warehouses that should not
be attacked. 

An attack would start with a siege, not just by troops and weapons, but
by a wall of electronic jamming. The goal is to "control the flow of
supplies, personnel and information into and within the urban area" in
order to "physically and psychologically isolate" it. There would be
broadcasts and leaflets to demoralize fighters and calm civilians;
similar operations would continue after state-run television and radio
stations fell. 

When and if fighters enter a city, they need "overwhelming combat power"
? not to level the city but to capture or destroy crucial targets with
such "speed, firepower and shock" that resistance collapses. 

"First, you want to control all routes in and out of the city," said Lt.
Col. John Nicholson, who commanded the first of the Army's new Stryker
brigade combat teams built around quickly deployable, wheeled armored
vehicles that could spearhead an urban assault. "You want to isolate the
city. Then you want to isolate specific targets inside the city. You
don't want to take the whole city. Rather, you want to control it by
destroying some objectives and controlling others." 

Political considerations play a major part in shaping the plan. "You
must have a clear understanding of the political objectives," said
Colonel Nicholson, now an aide to the secretary of the Army, Thomas E.
White. "You can't just go in and rubble a city if your goal is to
quickly transition to a post-conflict friendly government." 

That is why modern doctrine sees no point in razing cities. 

"You need to figure out what pieces of the city or what things you have
to attack in order to get the results you want," said James A. Lasswell,
a retired colonel at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in
Quantico, Va., who played a pivotal role in rewriting the Marines'
doctrine on urban combat. 

Complications like these are what prompt senior officers to say will
avoid urban combat if possible. The military must be ready to deal with
refugees, relief aid and civil order, including crowd control, and to
get power stations and water treatment plants up and running in parts of
a city that have surrendered or have been seized. "I wouldn't get sucked
into the cities," said Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a former head of the
Central Command. "There would be a lot of casualties on our side, we'd
kill a lot of civilians and destroy a lot of infrastructure, and the
images on Al Jazeera wouldn't help us at all," a reference the Arabic
satellite network. 

Historically, military forces attacking cities have suffered 30 to 40
percent casualties in the intensive fighting. In war games, the new
approach has reduced estimated casualties to 10 percent. 

At Quantico, a team of marines assigned to a study called Project
Metropolis have found that new tactics are probably more important than
new technology. 

Jet and helicopter pilots simulating attacks to support ground troops
are rehearsing new angles of attack, having discovered that plate glass
windows in office buildings can deflect the lasers used to identify
their targets. When four infantrymen move with a single M1-A1 tank,
others can keep watch over rooftops and other enemy outposts while the
tanks provide devastating firepower that no foot soldier can match. 

Marine experts at Quantico found that it takes four or five weeks ?
twice what most Army and Marine Corps infantry units spend each year
training for urban fighting ? to become proficient at the new tactics.
Some training can be done at rudimentary sites, with mock houses rigged
of two-by-fours and plastic sheeting. A number of bases have complexes
with 30 or so buildings that troops quickly master. 

Marines are now using a 1,000-building complex at George Air Force Base,
a shuttered installation in southern California. There, as in a strange
city, many buildings look alike. There are no street signs. Marines
learn to divide the mock city into grids, and to call in air strikes. 

"We still don't have enough training facilities that put the average
marine or soldier in an urban environment," said Randy Gangle, a retired
colonel at the Warfighting Laboratory who was instrumental in developing
in the Marine Corps's new urban combat doctrine. 

Old tactics, and the clichés that describe them, are being discarded.
Army and Marine ground troops do not talk so much about kicking down the
doors; too often, they are booby-trapped. 

Instead, for example, they are studying how the Israeli Army, in the
recent fighting in Jenin, used specially loaded tank rounds to blast
holes in the walls of buildings. The charge is designed to open the
wall, but not to blast through the building, collapse it or hit what
lies beyond. 

Technology has its role. Ground-penetrating radar and heat sensors can
locate enemy fighters in tunnels or behind walls. 

One such device was quietly loaned to rescue teams after the Sept. 11
attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon officials said. Called the
Tactical Mobile Robot, this small, remote-controlled vehicle, which is
still undergoing tests, burrows through walls or concrete and sends back
pictures. 

Urban operations would begin after sundown, when American optical
technology allows its forces to dominate the battlefield while many
adversaries are blinded by the night. Most residents are at home, so
they do not fill the streets. The streets are the most dangeous place. 

"We expect 80 percent of our casualties would be outside the buildings
and in between," said Col. Robert L. Caslen Jr., chief of staff for the
10th Mountain Division, whose 2nd Brigade is preparing for an urban
assault exercise this week in Louisiana. "Roads and alleys channelize
your movements, and they give a great field of fire for the enemy." 

More than 2,500 years ago, the Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu,
warned that urban combat tires troops, courts casualties and voids a
victory. "The worst policy is to attack cities," he wrote. 

Today, Pentagon strategists have seen little to alter that analysis. 

"If we have to fight a pitched battle in Baghdad," said one senior
officer with access to the war planners, "it means we screwed up
somewhere along the way." 

Source:  The New York Times

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