Sunday, September 22, 2002

Emerging Strategy for Invasion

According to the Washington Post, we will invade Iraq focused on the regime. We will avoid attacks on the country’s infrastructure. Already, Central Command has tapped two heavy divisions and our air assault division. The Marines will send a division and the British send a couple brigades. We have the majority of the invasion force that I wrote about earlier. Add maybe an armored cavalry regiment plus the supporting artillery, aviation, combat support, and combat service support units that would be part of a corps, and you have the southern prong of the invasion force with the British, heavy divisions, and Marines. The air assault division will attack from the north according to the article.

Precision air power will provide anywhere from a couple days of bombing before the ground troops move in up to ten days to two weeks according to more conservative estimates. Again, this is in the ball park of my estimate of one to two weeks, depending on damage done. We want the shorter amount to begin the invasion with less delay—speed, speed, speed is my mantra for this. But if precision doesn’t work as well as we assume, it could drag on. I do think the Air Force is as good as we hope. I’d be shocked if it only took two days of aerial bombardment, but who knows? All we need to complete the main components is a Turkish corps attacking with our air assault division striking from the north in a pinning attack. Although this is still short one division I think necessary in the south, another division is to be on call to reinforce and would probably be closing on Kuwait as the air attacks begin. That completes the main invasion force. Overall, it has more armor and less infantry than I guessed. On the other hand, it has the advantage of having the stuff toughest to move in place (the heavy armor). If we need to fight in cities it will be easier to airlift in light infantry.

The other element is minor for conquering Iraq but important for keeping it a small war. Jordan-based elements will be Army and Marine units for local security and the nucleus of a small invasion. The main purpose will be SCUD-hunting special forces operating out of Jordan to work in western Iraq. We know from Desert Storm that roaming aircraft can’t do the job. Nailing the H-3 Iraqi military complex in western Iraq may have allowed us to send in special forces already. Given Israeli talk of retaliating if Iraq strikes Israel combined with the illogic of using nukes and the redundancy of using their air power to retaliate (just what would the Israelis do that we won’t be?), Jordan is where Israeli talk will go into action. I guess that Israeli special forces will work out of Jordan with us to operate in western Iraq to hunt SCUDS. Effective and quiet.

Despite all the talk of a new kind of invasion, all we’re really talking about is recognizing two changes from 1991—the conscript infantry of Iraq will probably defect or surrender fairly quickly; and our Air Force has tremendous precision today that will allow a much more effective aerial campaign. Otherwise it looks like we will go in with the heavy corps I’ve always though we need. One final note on the difficulty of using numbers of troops rather than numbers of combat divisions when you discuss this. The article says this will be 4-5 US divisions with 100,000 troops compared to 1991 with 9 US divisions and 500,000 troops. We’re clearly skimping on the support units, probably counting on shipping in supplies mostly as we use them rather than establishing iron mountains of supplies in Saudi Arabia (90% of which we took back home in 1991). We can probably also use much less air power since precision weapons will multiply the effectiveness of a smaller number of aircraft. The Navy must be separate from the total too.

I’d rather have the 101st in the south to help with crossing water barriers and send the Tenth Mountain to the north. But all in all, it looks like we’ll commit enough to crush the Iraqis. We are not counting on defecting Iraqis to win, just to make it easy. It could be over in a week of ground fighting if all goes well.