Thursday, August 22, 2002


Ok, I’ve been off on other topics related to the war but not actually on the pending attack. Time for as much nuts and bolts as a former enlisted reservist can muster on the subject.

How will the American Army (and Marines and British) get to Baghdad?

First, back to the basics. The invasion force will be two heavy divisions, 101st Air Assault Division, a Marine Expeditionary Force (a division with air support) plus extra battalions in the region, an Armored Cavalry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (with two of its brigades?), a Ranger regiment, and maybe a brigade of 82nd Airborne Division (which is earmarked for Afghanistan now). The British will provide a heavy brigade and an infantry brigade (Marine or Paras?). Separate aviation brigades and artillery brigades plus all the other supporting combat support and combat service support stuff. Plus carriers and Air Force for air support.

Deployment will be the mountain division in the north, with a Turkish corps. The rest in Kuwait with a small force, maybe a brigade task force of Marines and Army in Jordan.

The Air Force will deploy combat aircraft in Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar primarily, with some in Jordan and other Gulf states. The other states will probably allow support missions from their soil. The Navy will operate in the eastern Med., Red Sea, and Gulf.

I’m guessing no more than a week of air strikes before the ground war begins. Precision weapons and the need for speed will allow/compel us to make haste.

The Turkish corps will march south toward Mosul; while the US mountain division deploys into Kurdish areas in the north to reassure and defend the Kurds (and to remind them they shouldn’t declare independence and to deter the Iranians).

The Jordan-based units will have the Army provide base security while the Marines conduct SCUD raids and search and rescue for downed pilots in western Iraq. Should the Iraqis dispatch a heavy force west to strike them, whatever is left after the Air Force decimates them on the road march will be annihilated. In time, this task force could drive toward Baghdad to open up a supply route for US forces besieging Baghdad.

Advancing out of Kuwait, the British and some Marines will mask Basra and use defecting Iraqi infantry to capture Basra. The two British brigades and a brigade of Marines will remain here to guard the flank and deter the Iranians from mucking around in the Basra area.

The main drive will be on either side of the Euphrates River. One heavy division, with the armored cavalry regiment screening it, will advance north on the west side of the river. I’ve read that maybe the whole force would go this route, but that seems unlikely. I’m no expert but the road network doesn’t seem like it would support a drive that way with an entire corps. Crossing the Euphrates between Al Samawah and An Nasiriyah to drive north on the excellent highway there to Baghdad (built in the Iran-Iraq war as a more secure route south than the road near the Iran border) will be the other heavy division supported by the Marines and 101st, which will make the first river crossings to pave the way for the heavy armor to drive on Baghdad; and open a major supply route north.

The Ranger regiment will be available for a strategic target like a nuke site or a Saddam caravan.

If the Iraqis try to move, air power will make their lives hell.

Special forces and psychological warfare will try to get Iraqi army units to defect.

In the end, we will have Baghdad cut off from the north, south, and west. The Republican Guards will for the most part hold. When we reach Baghdad, the assault or siege will be the big question. Do we get enough defectors to attack for us, supported by our firepower? Do the Republican Guards start to crumble? Do the Iraqis forbid the civilians from leaving to keep them as a shield? Just don’t know what the situation will be at that point, starting off so far away from the first shot. (In 1991, I expected the Iraqis to fight (which they did) and thought it would take longer (weeks rather than days) and more casualties to win. In my own defense, when co-workers asked me after a few weeks of bombing what would happen, I said we were going to take LOTS of prisoners)

The big question is whether Saddam’s minions use the chemical and/or biological weapons when he orders them to fire them off. We can cope with whatever he can throw at us. The size of his attacks and whether we are advancing rapidly will shape our response. If we are winning handily, we may ignore his use of such weapons. If it bogs us down, …do we still have neutron weapons?

One week of air strikes. Then a ground invasion that takes us a week to get to Baghdad. Then Lord knows. Could be easy or hard at that point. I don’t doubt we will be victorious, however. Just the time and cost is a question. I just can’t believe we’ll try to do it on a shoestring—daring as that may be.