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Lessons from Urban Operations Journal
March 27, 2003 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Risks and realities of urban warfare Urban Operations Journal collects "open-source information on urban military operations," including military doctrine, an image library, war game reports, a quotes collection and much more. Lessons from Grozny, Hue City and Beirut shed light on what might be coming in Baghdad. The training section links to a number of documents noting the "scarcity of training resources" the U.S. devotes to urban warfare, including this PBS story in which an urban warfare specialist makes the claim U.S. forces are "not proficient" on the urban battleground, where the casualty rate is "about 30 percent."
posted by mediareport (13 comments total)

 
Great post, mediareport. And great posts on your blog, too. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 4:47 PM on March 27, 2003


There's always the old fashioned answer to urban warfare: siege.
posted by stbalbach at 4:55 PM on March 27, 2003


I agree about the siege option, stbalbach, but I haven't heard much talk of it so far from military analysts, while I see lots of preparatory talk of house-to-house fighting. It's horrifying, especially since the first waves will almost certainly face casualties in the 50-80% range and the civilian toll will be enormous. I'm more convinced than ever of the hubris of the U.S. position. We should have helped the Iraqi people overthrow Saddam themselves. Instead, Bush announced he'd be doing it for them. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Btw, the lack of U.S. troops' training in close urban combat may explain why British units will probably spearhead Baghdad street fighting:

American military leaders demanded the inclusion of specified British units because of their expertise in the perilous techniques of 'Fighting in Built-up Areas' (FIBUA), honed by intensive training at home and experience in theatres including Northern Ireland, Kosovo and the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan.

Major Charles Heyman, editor of Jane’s World Armies, said..."This is one of the things that nobody wants to do...It is disgusting and disastrous and dirty, but it will have to be done if they want to defeat the Republican Guard."

...the British are acknowledged to be better prepared for the task...

Labour MP David Hamilton: “If the Iraqis do fight street-to-street, house-to-house, the casualties are going to be really high and I can’t imagine the reaction here.”


Oh, and thanks, homunculus. :)
posted by mediareport at 5:18 PM on March 27, 2003


...U.S. forces are "not proficient" on the urban battleground, where the casualty rate is "about 30 percent."

Scary! Thank God there's always handy henchmen to do the dangerous bit:

American military leaders demanded the inclusion of specified British units because of their expertise in the perilous techniques of 'Fighting in Built-up Areas' (FIBUA), honed by intensive training at home and experience in theatres including Northern Ireland, Kosovo and the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan.

Phew!
posted by spazzm at 5:56 PM on March 27, 2003


But some American forces have in fact been in training in Israel, where the Israelis have had to go iinto towns to root out terrorists on a dorr to dorr basis. I have no idea how many American troops involved in this training but I know it has been going on.
posted by Postroad at 5:59 PM on March 27, 2003


Siege just means the city is surrounded and cut off from supplies. You can still have urban combat. I imagine they will surround Baghdad in fact already said they would have it surrounded within 5 days. Then do what the Brits did in Basra use intelligence to find the leadership and conduct surgical strikes and stoke the resistance.
posted by stbalbach at 6:00 PM on March 27, 2003


My college senior essay is on that site! (I know, completely self serving and really almost embarassingly egotistical to post.)
posted by pjgulliver at 6:08 PM on March 27, 2003


As the "Shock and Awe" (or as I call it Operation Chickenhawk Fantasy) campaign looks dubious, the U.S. calls up 30,000 more troops.

Meanwhile, The Rummer looks increasingly clueless.
posted by mark13 at 6:35 PM on March 27, 2003



Siege just means the city is surrounded and cut off from supplies.


Which, of course, is a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen. Cut off supplies and hope that the leadership will surrender because they don't want to see their families die. Or combine it with carpet bombing to weaken resistance. I doubt any member of the current US administration would have an ethical problem with either option.

Then do what the Brits did in Basra use intelligence to find the leadership

Yeah, but how do you find them? That has been the whole fucking problem so far. It would have been much easier if they had continued the spies=inspectors strategy of the past -- flood the whole nation with inspectors, then take Saddam out when you get a chance. As it stands, the biggest hope the US have is that the Iraqi leadership will collapse.
posted by Eloquence at 6:36 PM on March 27, 2003


some American forces have in fact been in training in Israel

Yeah, there's also been a lot of last-minute training in hastily-built mock towns in Kuwait, too. But among the points raised in by urban combat specialists in some of the articles at Urban Operations is that these towns are generally very poor substitutes for the real thing, not least because they don't include real situations like this. They also say the mock training sites, such as they are, have routinely been underutilized. Then there are the problems in retention of knowledge, lack of ability to train with combined arms, etc. The concerns are pretty numerous.

Btw, stbalbach, just to emphasize my point about preparations for close street combat over a siege, check the news links page at UO. I don't see much there about plans to starve Saddam's forces out of Baghdad, you know?
posted by mediareport at 6:42 PM on March 27, 2003


StBalbach - A siege of Baghdad, with a cutoff of food and water, would have the same sort of effect as trying to starve a pack of wolves out from a flock of sheep - as hunger sets in, the sheep will be devoured. The wolves will be the last to starve - but not the first blamed for the slaughter. Wolves are, after all, predictable.

If the war is very, very long...well then, fear not: a new generation of future American soldiers is already being trained in urban warfare, by way of the "Forward Command Post".
posted by troutfishing at 8:13 PM on March 27, 2003


I suspect they will use a combination of seige and urban combat. The seige will put the city on edge and give internal opposition the confidence it needs that the end is near to rise up and take over. The combat will be needed to take out the Republican Guards and para-military troops hopefully on the approaches south of the city in a non urban environment. In fact, if they are good enough (this is the 3rd Mechanized) they will surround the Guards outside the city and prevent them from falling back into the urban environment.

mediareport - we face some urban combat no matter what and it's the medias favorite boggyman.
posted by stbalbach at 5:17 AM on March 28, 2003


we face some urban combat no matter what and it's the medias favorite boggyman.

I really don't give a fuck about media "boggymen," stbalbach. I *do* give a fuck when the people who train U.S. forces in urban combat say our troops are "not proficient" in the kind of warfare we're sending them into.
posted by mediareport at 9:19 PM on March 28, 2003


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