Exceptionally difficult and unstable situation has developed on the US-Iraqi front by the morning of April 1. The coalition troops are persistently trying to take control of the strategic "triangle" Karabela - Al-Khindiya - Al-Iskanderiya. At the same time the coalition units are continuing their advance toward Al-Kut and An-nu-Manyah, but so far the US forces were unable to take any of these towns. To move forward the US units are forced to leave behind large numbers of troops needed to blockade the towns remaining under Iraqi control. The An-Najaf and An-Nasiriya garrisons are still involved in active combat deep behind the coalition forward lines.
The coalition command had to deploy two brigades from the 101st Airborne Division to blockade and to storm An-Najaf and An-Nasiriya. These two brigades will replace elements of the US 1st Marine Division (the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit under the command of Col. John Waldhauser) that has been fighting in this area for the past six days. These "heavy" attack brigades are currently being deployed to the area of intense fighting near Al-Hillah.
Rough estimates show that the territory "captured" by the coalition forces still contains at least 30,000 Iraqi regular troops and militia engaged in active combat. Military experts are already warning the US command about the danger of underestimating the enemy: doing so may seriously complicate the situation of the attacking forces and foil the coalition's very optimistic plans.
On the other hand, the Iraqi command is being forced to withdraw its troops under the protection of towns. Iraqis are also forced to minimize all active combat operations outside the city limits as the desert terrain maximizes the enemy's advantage in aviation and its technological superiority in reconnaissance and targeting systems. This robs the Iraqis of their mobility and forces them to resort to "fortress-like" type of warfare, which, clearly, is significantly reducing their combat effectiveness.
Near Karabela the command of the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division has completely abandoned its plans to storm the town. After blocking Karabela on three sides the 3rd Infantry Division directed its main thrust toward the towns of Al-Musaib and Al-Khindiya. Heavy combat is continuing in this area for the second day. The US is continuously escalating the intensity of its attacks and is using nearly all artillery and tank units available to the strike group's command. Nevertheless, the coalition forces are still unable to penetrate the Iraqi defenses. The commander of the 3rd Infantry Division Major General Buford Blount is reporting fierce Iraqi resistance. According to the General, elements of the 2nd Iraqi Republican Guard "Medina" Division that are defending these positions maintain high combat potential and are repelling all attempts to break through their lines. During the past day and today's early morning the [coalition] field commanders have reported the loss of up to 5 tanks, 7-10 APCs and IFVs and no less than 9 killed. At least one helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing. Two more helicopters reported taking serious damage and their situation so far is unknown. Iraqi losses [near Karabela], based on the US reports from the battlefield, include at least 300 killed and up to 30 destroyed tanks and APCs. In the morning the coalition forces have ceased the attack and now the Iraqi positions are being engaged by aviation. The next [coalition] attack is anticipated during the night.
Heavy fighting is continuing in the town of Al-Hillah. Despite strong aviation and artillery support the US Marine units are still unable to strengthen their positions on the left bank of the Euphrates and to push the Iraqi forces out of the town. During the past 24 hours the US Marines in Al-Hillah lost up to 5 armored vehicles; at least 10 soldiers were killed or wounded. According to the reports by the US commanders, the Iraqi losses during this time amount to at least 100 killed; 10 reinforced strongholds inside the town have been destroyed; there are reports of 80 Iraqis captured during a cleanup operation in the occupied part of the town.
A crisis situation has developed in the area of Al-Divania. Having encountered no initial Iraqi opposition elements of the US Marine 2nd Expeditionary Unit begun advancing toward the town but were met with heavy artillery and mortar fire and were forced to assume defensive positions resorting to close combat. The exchange of fire continued for nearly seven hours resulting in up to 12 destroyed US tanks and APCs and up to 20 killed or wounded Marines. Currently the Iraqi positions are being attacked by artillery and aviation.
Yesterday's attempts by the US troops to storm the part of An-Nasiriya on the left bank [of the Euphrates] yielded no results. After moving behind the Iraqi positions, while simultaneously attacking them from the front, the US troops still were unable to break the Iraqi defenses and by morning were forced to return to the their starting positions. The coalition losses in this engagement, according to reports by [the US] field commanders, were 2 killed and up to 12 wounded; a [US] helicopter took a hit and made an emergency landing in the northern part of An-Nasiriya.
Also no results came from the coalition attempts to capture An-Najaf. All US attacks were repelled. There have been reports of 3 destroyed APCs and at least 5 killed or wounded coalition troops.
Near Basra the British forces are still unable to tighten their blockade of the city. During the night the Iraqis attacked British units near the village of Shujuh and threw the British back 1.5-2 kilometers. According to the Iraqi reports, at least 5 British soldiers were killed in this attack. The British, on the other hand, have reported 2 missing and 4 wounded soldiers. Iraqis have reported that a destroyed British tank and two APCs were left behind on the battlefield.
Tactical attack units from the US 82nd Airborne Division and the 22nd SAS Regiment, earlier deployed to northern Iraq near the town of Al-Buadj, were destroyed and dispersed as the result of a daylong battle with the Iraqi troops. The exact number of [coalition] losses is still being verified. Intercepted radio communications show that the coalition troops are retreating in small groups and have no exact information about their own losses. Currently the remaining units are trying to reach the Kurdish-controlled territory. It is believed that up to 30 [coalition] soldiers were killed or captured by the Iraqis.
Military analysts believe that today and tomorrow will decide the outcome of the attack on Baghdad that begun two days ago. If the coalition forces fail to break the Iraqi defenses, then by the weekend the US will be forced to curtail all attacks and to resort to positional warfare while regrouping forces and integrating them with the fresh divisions arriving from the US and Europe. Such a tactical pause in the war, although not a complete halt in combat operations (the coalition command will continue trying to use localized attacks to improve its positions), may last seven to fourteen days and will lead to a full re-evaluation of all coalition battle plans.
[ translated by Venik ]