Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Preparations for the Fallujah Assault

Former Marine officer and Iraq veteran Chester has more on the "battlefield shaping" preparations to assault Fallujah. The enemy has been engaged in some battlefield preparation of his own by attacking lines of communications in an attempt to force the dispersal of US forces to security duties. Twenty Americans were wounded in a spate of attacks outside in Ramadi and elsewhere. Reuters describes the desertion of a Kurdish company commander who they describe as being in possession of the Fallujah battle plan which may or may not be related to enemy counterintelligence. This kind of skirmishing has preceded every set-piece battle from time immemorial. The Seattle Times reports:

Reports are circulating among Iraqi and U.S. officials that large numbers of insurgents have already left the Fallujah area in anticipation of the coming invasion. The militants are reportedly fanning to other cities in the Sunni Triangle, where they will stage diversionary attacks -- and underscore that despite an expected defeat for insurgent forces in Fallujah, the rebel movement remains strong.

"There will be horrific events outside Fallujah," said a senior U.S. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I would never tell you that violence in Sunni areas won't get worse when you open up a battle." He added that officials expect that period to last "not many weeks." "You will have a shortish period when everybody will say the whole country's falling apart but they (the insurgents) will not be able to maintain that tempo."

But fundamentally the enemy can do nothing to dilute the concentration of combat power that is gathering all around Fallujah. This combat power not only takes the form of traditional firepower and infantry strength but also informational power. Chester links to an SFGate article suggesting the US will use UGVs (ground robots) in the upcoming battle. Some of these, like the Marine Gladiator, have been described in the press. A wide variety of ground and air vehicles have been in development and limited use even from the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although the larger systems are controlled by datalinks which range out to thousands of miles, the smaller systems are controlled by line of site devices and wireless protocols that are essentially identical to the kind used in your laptop. The establishment of a wireless router infrastructure and the integration of these individual unmanned systems has become one of the key preparatory tasks of the battlefield. Once the assault begins in earnest these systems will help control fires, identify friend from foe and coordinate the battle. This is especially necessary because American forces will go through houses and alleys in built up areas, walking through walls with explosive dooropeners. There will be many small units maneuvering out of visual contact with each other. The air will be thick with American air and UAVs but that will only help if these can coordinate with one another and the people on the ground.

Yet after the last technological refinement has been applied, the Marine infantry will go forward to close with an enemy many of whom have traveled thousands of miles specifically to kill them; pilgrims of death. The Marines will want to live; and yet by some miracle they will advance. There in the ancient Land Between the Rivers young men from big cities and small towns will perform the most incomprehensible act of generosity on earth and press their extravagant gift into our uncertain hands.