US trains soldiers for battle in streets of Iraq
Daily Times Report
WASHINGTON: As the United States edges closer to war with Iraq that could begin this winter, many experts believe Saddam Hussein will try to lure US forces into a series of bloody street battles designed to maximise US casualties and break the spirits of Americans.
Defence analysts at the Pentagon predict that the Iraqi dictator will make his final stand in Baghdad, claims the USA Today
“Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon has been preparing soldiers and Marines to fight battles in villages, towns and cities,” reports the magazine that quoted a former US commander in the Middle East, Joseph Hoar, as saying: “The absolute lesson to be learned from the 1990-91 Gulf War was that you do not take on the United States armed forces in the open desert and expect to win.”
“Saddam’s best hope for survival might be to inflict shocking, Somalia-like horrors on American troops in his capital, and broadcast the images of US-caused civilian carnage to the Arab world,” says the magazine. It reports that fighting battles in the confining grid of a large city is among the most difficult and dangerous things armies do.
Says a retired US general, Barry McCaffrey, that the Pentagon would have to gather thorough intelligence on “the layout of Iraq’s key cities, Saddam’s chemical weapons sites and his more than 50 sites known as presidential palaces”.
But he believes having that knowledge is only part of waging war. “The biggest mistake people make is to think you can choose a battlefield. You can choose an initial battlefield, and you can choose how you fight. But after that, you don’t have a choice of where you fight,” McCaffrey says.
“We will be under enormous pressure to rapidly enter Iraq, find, seize and destroy his weapons of mass destruction.”
And that, McCaffrey acknowledges, means sending thousands of US ground troops into harm’s way.
US preparations: The magazine reports that the US military has been studying two recent examples that demonstrate the brutality of urban fighting: the 1993 ambush of Army Rangers in Mogadishu; and the 1994 casualties of the Russian army in Grozny.
Defence experts at the Pentagon acknowledge that the United States could win a huge tactical victory – as it did in Somalia – yet quickly lose public support for the battle. “In 1993, a group of Army Rangers attempting to rescue downed Black Hawk helicopter pilots were ambushed by civilian mobs in Mogadishu,” they recall.
Apart from this problem, the US military is also expected to stay vigilant against Iraq’s chemicals weapons. However, the magazine says that Saddam is ‘more likely to aim them at bigger, easier targets such as neighboring countries or US forces massing for an attack’.