New Delhi, 07
US leaders like Rumsfeld have not yet publicly acknowledged it,
American forces are currently involved in an extended, low-intensity
conflict in Iraq. More precisely, they are involved in a guerrilla
war in the Sunni areas of the country, including much of Baghdad
proper as well as an arc that runs from due west to the north, now
come to be known as the Sunni triangle.
almost daily guerrilla attacks against US forces have resulted in
nearly 52 deaths (26 related to combat), since US President Bush
declared the end of the major military operations. They have also
tied down a substantial number of troops in counter insurgency
operations, two of which (Operations Peninsula Freedom and Desert
Scorpion) were launched in June.
though the level of intensity is relatively low, this type of
hostile but violent resistance can have a disproportionate effect
strategically, even when it can be tactically and operationally
managed. Since guerrillas choose the time and place of their own
attacks and use mobility to evade counterattacks, they appear to be
outfighting the regular forces. Even when they are merely holding
their own or even losing, their continued operations generate a
sense of power for them and weakness for the counter-guerrilla
nature of counterinsurgency requires that guerrillas be
distinguished from the general population. This is extremely
difficult, particularly when the troops trying to make the
distinction are foreign, untrained in the local language and
therefore culturally incapable of making the subtle distinctions
needed for identification.
is another level on which the guerrilla war intersects strategy. The
United States invaded Iraq in order to be perceived as a decisive
military power set to change the world order after its own design.
Guerrilla warfare inevitably undermines the regional perception of
US power 末 justly or not 末 while creating the impression
that the United States is limited in what it can do in the region
militarily. Thus, the United States is in a tough spot. It cannot
withdraw from Iraq and therefore must fight. But it must fight in a
way that it avoids four things:
cannot fight a war that alienates the general Iraqi populace
sufficiently to generate recruits for the guerrillas and
undermine the occupation.
cannot lose control of the countryside; this could destabilize
the entire occupation.
cannot allow the guerrilla operation to undermine its ability to
project forces elsewhere.
cannot be allowed to extend the length of the conflict to such
an extent that the US public determines that the cost is not
worth the prize. The longer the war, the clearer the definition
of the prize must be.
the task for US forces is 末 first to identify the enemy (making
intelligence the centerpiece), second to isolate the enemy from his
supplies and from the population and finally destroy him. In
retrospect, the strange capitulation of Baghdad 末 where large
Iraqi formations simply melted away 末 appears to have been
calculated to some degree.
Afghanistan, the Taliban forces were not defeated in the cities.
They declined combat, withdrawing and dispersing, then reorganizing
and returning to guerrilla warfare. Saddam Hussein appears to have
taken a page from that strategy. Certainly, most of his forces did
not carry out a strategic retreat to return as guerrilla fighters;
most went home. However, a cadre of troops 末 first encountered
as Mujahideen fighters in Basra, Al Nasiriyah and Karbala 末
seems to have withdrawn to fight as guerrillas. What is important is
that they have retained cohesion. That does not necessarily mean
that they are all being controlled from a central location, although
the tempo of operations 末 daily attacks in different locations
seems to imply an element of planning by someone. This control and
co-ordination has to some extent abated after the killing of
Nguyen Giap, who commanded communist forces against both France and
US in Vietnam, divided guerrilla war into three stages:
one 末 very small unit, hit-and-run actions without any
attempt to hold territory.
two 末 continuation of stage one attacks combined with
larger units, regimental and below, engaging in more intense
attacks and taking and holding remote terrain as needed.
three 末 conventional warfare against a weakened enemy who
is engaged and defeated.
Iraqi Achilles heel is that the transition from the current level of
hit-and-run operations is very difficult to achieve. This means that
the Iraqis will have to remain at this level of operations for an
extended period of time. How long depends as much on their resources
as on their intentions. How many fighters they have, how secure
their command system is, where their weapons are located and how
many they have, will determine the length of the fight.
key for the United States is the destruction of the Iraqi guerrilla
command and control system. The North Vietnamese had a clearly
defined command and control system, but it was in the north and in
Cambodia. There were sanctuaries. At this moment, it would appear
that the Iraqis have no sanctuary. Therefore, the command centers
are within political and military reach of the United States. The
question is where are they? Where are Hussein and his other
commanders? Gen Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, Hussein's No. 4
commander and some others have been seized in recent raids in Tikrit.
is not yet clear is whether this is the beginning of the systematic
collapse of the guerrilla command structure or whether Saddam is
irrelevant to that. Destroy or capture Saddam and his remaining
commanders, and the Ba-athist supporters will not be able to resist
a general offensive. This has become the heart of the military
equation. To ensure success, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has
announced plans for maintaining US troops in Iraq over the next year
and beyond and identified units that will begin replacing current
forces in September. The plan will see active US Army units deployed
on one-year tours in Iraq although six-month rotations will continue
in Afghanistan and the Balkans. About 150,000 US military personnel
will remain in Iraq for the time being upto 2004.
the other hand, the Iraqi guerrillas
are embracing the tactics of terrorists by targeting civilians. On
05 Aug, an improvised explosive device 末 a weapon favored by
Saddam loyalists 末 was ignited near a truck carrying an
American contractor for Kellogg Brown & Root, an engineering and
construction company involved in rebuilding Iraq. The explosion
killed the worker, making him the first American civilian killed in
Iraq since Baghdad fell to the coalition on April 9. In addition,
three other civilians have been killed in guerrilla ambushes 末
a British journalist, a Sri Lankan worker for the Red Cross and an
Iraqi driver for the United Nations.
fighters have also killed Iraqi politicians and police who are
helping the coalition transform the Ba'athist-run country into a
democracy. In a high-profile assassination last month, Saddam
loyalists ambushed and killed Mohammed Nayil al-Jurayfi, the
pro-American mayor of Hadithah. The mayor's son also was
this piece is being written on 07 Aug,
at least eight people were killed in a large explosion at the
Jordanian embassy in Baghdad. Some of those killed were reportedly
embassy staff and guards. Others are thought to be in cars parked
close to the embassy. After the explosion, Iraqis stormed the
building, smashing portraits of Jordan's King Abdullah II and his
father King Hussein. In a separate incident, two American soldiers
were killed in a firefight in the al-Rashid district of Baghdad late
on Aug 06.