2003 April 02 Wednesday
Pavel Felgenhauer: Coalition Forces Pretended To Be Bogged Down
Writing in the Moscow Times Russian defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says the US and British forces floated fake stories of logistics problems and exaggerated the problems caused by Iraqi paramilitary forces.
The U.S. and British allies also had a good reason to cheat. By faking weakness and portraying an inability to make a decisive push for overall victory without weeks of preparation and reinforcement, the U.S. military command apparently hoped to trick the Iraqis into keeping their best units in the field rather than withdrawing immediately to Baghdad, where defeating the Republican Guard would come at a higher cost.
This is a plausible argument. A large number of air bases and forward supply depots have been opened around Iraq. The paramilitary forces are degrading rapidly in their ability to slow supply convoy shipments. While there are people arguing that the US is going to have to wait for weeks for reinforcements before closing on Baghdad it seems more likely that the coalition forces will keep pressing on and engaging and destroying more Iraqi forces in the field. The US forces are experiencing such a low rate of losses that it is hard to argue that they need more equipment in order to make the odds more favorable for them. Also, the competition between the US Army and US Marines over who will get to Baghdad first is an additional impetus for continued offensive operations that has not gotten the attention it deserves. The threat of the Marines getting ahead of them will keep the Army from stopping to wait for reinforcements.
Interesting. I've noticed for a while that many Russian analysts and websites tend to see a conspiratorial angle to a lot of stuff - though this is the first time I've seen it put the US in a positive light. During the Afghanistan war I recall seeing many reports on Russian websites of huge frozen morgues in Uzbekistan or elsewhere where the Pentagon was allegedly keeping hundreds of dead Americans, as well as other tales of American setbacks and clumsiness. It makes them great chess players, but maybe a tad paranoid... on the other hand, even paranoiacs sometimes have enemies... :-)
I never really bought the logistic problems story.
Especially when told by a military spokesoperson.
I've been waiting for someone to advance this theory. It makes sense and recent events appear to bear it out but it still leaves open one question: are the reports of a split between Rumsfeld and the generals part of the strategy, an unintended consequence of the strategy or the actual truth?
Interesting theory. It would be nice to believe our military had enough information dominance to pull it off. However, I don't believe it for these reasons:
1) Many similar reports of logistics problems by embedded non-US media personnel as well as US media personnel that tend to be hostile to the military.
2) Sustained and verified resistance by Iraqi troops, Fedayeen, and Baath Party militia all along the MSR (main supply route) and in bypassed cities.
3) Personal experience. I was a US Army tanker during the 1980s. This kind of very rapid advance is difficult to support. Every fuel truck, ammunition lorry, and water tanker has to travel to the re-supply points for the frontline units and then return ALL the way back to where the rear area logistics units are based. Eventually, these rear logistics bases are moved forward into the newly secured territory. The first key word here is "eventually," because the logistics bases are never moved as rapidly as the front line units advance. The second key word is "secured." Due to the narrow MSR and the lack of reserve combat troops to suppress or destroy the bypassed Iraqis, there was very little secure territory inside Iraq in which commanders would feel comfortable setting up a vulnerable target such as a logistics base. Most Iraqi forces along the MSR are now suppressed or destroyed so the logistics bases have moved into Iraq.
4) More personal experience. Continuous moving and fighting quickly degrades a military unit's combat effectiveness. Partly this is a result of sleep deprivation and partly a result of insufficient maintenance time on vehicles and weapons. 3rd ID (Mech) and 1st Marines should have been relieved after 4-5 days by follow-on forces. Of course, there were no heavy units available and the MSR needed help........so they stopped in place.
5) Bad weather. The heavy sandstorms after the intial advance made close air support very difficult and degraded target identification and land navigation. Waiting until the sandstorms subsided was a smart call for the commanders of a numerically inferior force.