U.S. Starting To Resort To "Scorched Earth" Strategy?
March 25, 2003
March 25, 2003, 1230hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - As of morning March 25 the situation on Iraqi fronts remains quiet. Both sides are actively preparing for future engagements. Exhausted in combat US 3rd Motorized Infantry Division is now being reinforced with fresh units from Kuwait (presumably with up to 1 Marine brigade and 1 tank brigade from the 1st Armored Division (all coming from the coalition command reserves) and elements of the British 7th Tank Brigade from the area of Umm Qasr. The troops have a stringent requirement to regroup and, after conducting additional reconnaissance, to capture An-Nasiriya within two days.
The Iraqis have reinforced the An-Nasiriya garrison with several artillery battalions and a large number of anti-tank weapons. Additionally, the Iraqis are actively deploying landmines along the approaches to their positions.
However, currently all combat has nearly ceased due to a sand storm raging over the region. Weather forecasts anticipate the storm's end by noon of March 26. According to intercepted radio communications the coalition advance will be tied to the end of the sand storm and is planned to take place during the night of March 26-27. The coalition command believes that a night attack will allow the its forces to achieve the element of surprise and to use its advantage in specialized night fighting equipment.
There have been no reports of any losses resulting from direct combat in the past 10 hours. However, there is information about two coalition combat vehicles destroyed by landmines. Three US soldiers were wounded in one of these incidents.
Positional warfare continues near Basra. The coalition forces in this area are clearly insufficient to continue the attack and the main emphasis is being placed on artillery and aviation. The city is under constant bombardment but so far this had little impact on the combat readiness of the Iraqi units. Thus, last night an Iraqi battalion reinforced with tanks swung around the coalition positions in the area of Basra airport and attacked the coalition forces in the flanks. As the result of this attack the US forces have been thrown back 1.5-2 kilometers leaving the airport and the nearby structures in the hands of the Iraqis. Two APCs and one tank were destroyed in this encounter. According to radio intelligence at least two US soldiers were killed and no less than six US soldiers were wounded.
The coalition forces are still unable to completely capture the small town of Umm Qasr. By the end of yesterday coalition units were controlling only the strategic roads going through the town, but fierce fighting continued in the residential districts. At least two British servicemen were killed by sniper fire in Umm Qasr during the past 24 hours.
The coalition command is extremely concerned with growing resistance movement in the rear of the advancing forces. During a meeting at the coalition command headquarters it was reported that up to 20 Iraqi reconnaissance units are active behind the coalition rear. The Iraqis attack lightly armed supply units; they deploy landmines and conduct reconnaissance. Additionally, captured villages have active armed resistance that is conducting reconnaissance in the interests of the Iraqi command and is organizing attacks against coalition troops. During the past 24 hours more than 30 coalition wheeled and armored vehicles have been lost to such attacks. Some 7 coalition servicemen have disappeared, 3 soldiers died and 10 were wounded.
The coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks ordered his forces to clear coalition rears from Iraqi diversionary units and partisans in the shortest possible time. The British side will be responsible for fulfilling these orders. A unit from the 22nd SAS regiment supported by the US 1st, 5th and 10th Special Operations Groups will carry out this operation. Each of these groups has up to 12 units numbering 12-15 troops each. All of these units have some Asian or Arabic Americans. The groups also have guides and translators from among local Iraqi collaborators, who went through rapid training at specialized centers in the Czech Republic and the UK.
The sand storms turned out to be the main enemy of the American military equipment. Just the 3rd Motorized Infantry Division had more than 100 disabled vehicles disabled. The repair crews are working around the clock to return all the disabled equipment back into service. This is causing serious concern on the part of the coalition command. The M1A2 Abrams tanks are not known for the their reliable engines as it is, but in the sand storm conditions multiple breakdowns became a real problem for the tank crews.
All attempts by the US paratroopers to capture the town of Kirkuk have yielded no result. The Americans counted on the support of the Kurds but the latter refused to take a direct part in the attack and demanded guarantees from the US command that it will prevent a Turkish invasion. The Turkish themselves are avoiding giving any such guarantees.
Additionally, the situation [at Kirkuk] is affected by the lack of heavy weapons on the part of the US paratroopers. The aviation support alone is clearly not sufficient. The northern group of forces commander Marine Brig. Gen. Osman has requested artillery and armored vehicles.
All indications are that so far the US is unable to form a combat-capable strike force in this area.
According to satellite reconnaissance it seems likely that the Iraqis had time to remove the captured Apache Longbow attack helicopter of the 11th Aviation Regiment. The pieces remaining at the landing site following a US bombing strike indicate that the bombs hit a crudely constructed mockup.
Aerial bombardment of Baghdad has so far failed to produce the expected results. All targets designated before the war have been hit 3 to 7 times, but this had almost no effect of the combat readiness of the Iraqi army, their air defenses or the command and control structures.
It seems that during preparation for the war the Iraqis were able to create new, well-protected communication lines and control centers. There is plenty of intelligence information indicating that so far the US electronic reconnaissance was unable to locate and to penetrate the Iraqi command's communications network, which is an indication of the network's high technological sophistication.
A particular point of concern for the US command is the huge overuse of precision-guided munitions and cruise missiles. Already the supply of heavy cruise missiles like the "Tomahawk" has been reduced by a third and, at the current rate of use, in three weeks the US will be left only with the untouchable strategic supply of these missiles. A similar situation exists with other types of precision-guided munitions. "The rate of their use is incompatible with the obtained results. We are literally dropping gold into the mud!" said Gen. Richard Mayers during a meeting at Pentagon yesterday morning. [reverse translation from Russian]
The US experts already call this war a "crisis". "It was enough for the enemy to show a little resistance and some creative thinking as our technological superiority began to quickly lose all its meaning. Our expenses are not justified by the obtained results. The enemy is using an order of magnitude cheaper weapons to reach the same goals for which we spend billions on technological whims of the defense industry!" said Gen. Stanley McCrystal during the same Pentagon meeting. [reverse translation from Russian]
Since the early morning today the coalition high command and the Joint Chief of Staff are in an online conference joined by the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. This meeting immediately follows an earlier meeting last night at the White House. During the night meeting with President Bush emergency actions were outlined to resolve the standstill in Iraq. The existing course of actions is viewed as "ineffective and leading to a crisis". The Secretary of State Collin Powell warned that, if the war in Iraq continues for more than a month, it might lead to unpredictable consequences in international politics.
The Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Mayers reported on the proposed actions and corrections to the plan of the operation in Iraq. George Bush demanded that the military break the standstill in Iraq and within a week achieves significant military progress. A particular attention, according to Bush, should be paid to finding and eliminating the top Iraqi political and military leadership. Bush believes that Saddam Hussein and his closest aides are the cornerstone of the Iraqi defense.
During today's online meeting at the coalition headquarters Gen. Franks was criticized for inefficient command of his troops and for his inability to concentrate available forces on the main tasks.
According to [Russian military] intelligence Pentagon made a decision to significantly reinforce the coalition. During the next two weeks up to 50,000 troops and no less than 500 tanks will arrive to the combat area from the US military bases in Germany and Albania. By the end of April 120,000 more troops and up to 1,200 additional tanks will be sent to support the war against Iraq.
A decision was made to change the way aviation is used in this war. The use of precision-guided munitions will be scaled down and these weapons will be reserved for attacking only known, confirmed targets. There will be an increase in the use of conventional high-yield aviation bombs, volume-detonation bombs and incendiary munitions. The USAF command is ordered to deliver to airbases used against Iraq a two-week supply of aviation bombs of 1-tonn caliber and higher as well as volume-detonation and incendiary bombs. This means that Washington is resorting to the "scorched earth" tactics and carpet-bombing campaign.
(source: iraqwar.ru, 03-25-03, translated by Venik; Emphasis added)
The IRAQWAR.RU analytical center was created recently by a group of journalists and military experts from Russia to provide accurate and up-to-date news and analysis of the war against Iraq. The following is the English translation of the IRAQWAR.RU report based on the Russian military intelligence reports.