The situation on the US-Iraqi front is characterized by gradual reduction of American offensive activity. After the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division tank forces had marched towards Baghdad and its vanguards reached the city from south and south-west, engineering fortification of their positions began, which indicates the end of the current stage of the campaign as well as the loss of offensive potential of American forces and necessity to rest and regroup. It is supposed that during the next two days the American command will attempt local strikes in order to improve and extend their positions on the south and, especially, south-west approaches to Baghdad (crossing the Baghdad – Samarra roadway) and begin bringing fresh forces from Kuwait.
As we supposed, during the last night Americans were moving 101st Airborne Division troops to help the 1st Mechanized Division that captured the airport of Baghdad yesterday morning. About 80 strike and transport helicopters and 500 marines were deployed there.
But all the efforts to reinforce the brigade with heavy armor failed as Iraqi started powerful artillery strikes at the transport routes and organized mobile firing groups on the roads. After reports about losing 3 tanks and 5 APCs on the route the American command had to pause the movement of the reinforcements by land.
Yesterday’s estimates of the forces concentrated here were overstated. After analysis of intercepted radio communications and reports of American commanders it was specified that at the airport there were only parts of the 1st brigade troops, up to 2 enforced battalions with the help of a self-propelled artillery division 3 thousand soldiers and officers strong, 60 tanks and about 20 guns.
Another battalion enforced with artillery crossed the Baghdad-Amman roadway and came into position at the crossroads to the south of the airport, near Abu-Harraib.
Soldiers of the 1st Mechanized Brigade spent almost all the last night in chemical protection suits, waiting for Iraqi to use their “untraditional weapons”. Apart from that, their positions were constantly shot with artillery and machine gun fire. The brigade commanders report that the soldiers are ultimately dead-beat, and are constantly requesting reinforcements.
About 10 armored units including 4 tanks were lost in this area yesterday. Up to 9 men were killed, about 20 wounded, at least 25 reported missing. Moreover, the status of a patrol group that didn’t arrive at the airport remains unclear. It is supposed that it either moved away towards Khan-Azad and took defense there or got under an ambush and was eliminated. It is now being searched for.
The losses of Iraqi were up to 40 men killed, about 200 captured (including the airport technical personnel), 4 guns and 3 tanks.
Currently American reconnaissance squadrons are trying to dissect the suburban defenses with local sallies.
At the same time, marine troops are approaching the south-east borders of Baghdad. Their vanguard units reached the outskirts of Al-Jessir and immediately tried to capture the bridge over a feeder of the Tigris, the Divala river, but were met with fire and stopped.
Commander of the 1st Expeditionary Marine Squadron colonel Joe Dowdy was deposed yesterday morning. As was revealed, the colonel was deposed “…for utmost hesitation and loss of the initiative during the storm of An-Nasiriya…”. This way the coalition command in Qatar found an excuse for their military faults by that town. The “guilt” of the colonel was in his refusing to enter the town for almost 3 days and trying to suppress Iraqi resistance with artillery and aviation, trying to avoid losses. As a result, the command additionally had to move the 15th squadron of colonel Tomas Worldhouser there, who had to storm the ferriages for almost 6 days, with about 20 of his soldiers killed, 130 wounded and 4 missing. The 1st Expeditionary Squadron lost no men at An-Nasiriya, but 3 marines died, as were reported, “by inadvertency” and about 20 soldiers got wounded.
Despite the fact that marines were able to capture one of the bridges at the south outskirt of An-Nasiriya, the ferriage across the Euphrates is still risky. Fights in the city are going on. The American command has to cover the ferriage with a company of marines enforced with tanks and artillery, up to 400 soldiers and officers strong. Every column passing across the bridge gets shot by Iraqis from the left bank and the marines have to cover it by setting smoke screens and delivering constant fire. A brigade group of the 101st Airborne Division is engaged in the combat but is unable to break the Iraqi resistance. Throughout the day 3 men were wounded, 1 soldier reported missing.
In An-Najaf, after 3 days of gunning and bombardment the 101st Airborne Division marines were able to advance towards the center of the town and are now fighting in the market region.
It is reported that 2 marines were killed and 4 wounded. 1 APC was destroyed with a RPG. At the same time there arrived information that during the last night most of the garrison (up to 3 thousand Republican Guardians of the “Medina” Division) left the town on cars for Karbala. Only militia remained in the town, covering the withdrawing main forces and continuing to resist.
All the attempts of American marines to advance into Al-Khindiya failed. After 1 APC from the vanguard was knocked out and more than 20 RPG shots at the column, the marines withdrew at their original positions. 2 soldiers were wounded and evacuated rearwards. American intelligence believes that no more than a battalion of Iraqis are defending the town. Their resistance remains, despite that the town has already been under siege for 8 days.
Americans were unable to capture the left-bank part of Al-Hillah. The 82nd Airborne Division troops are only capable of keeping a narrow “corridor” – across the outskirt of Al-Hillah with the bridge over the Euphrates. There is constant shooting in the town. Throughout the day in this region the coalition lost 1 men killed and 4 wounded.
A similar “corridor” is kept by marines in the Al-Kut town. But there is information that allows us to suppose that Americans were pushed away from the town last night. Continuous requests of artillery and aviation support and coordinates transmitted to the artillery HQ indicate that the combat occurred in immediate proximity to the American positions. 4 times ambulance helicopters flew into this region, and there hasn’t still been a report from the commander of the marine group that defends this area, which may indicate that he hasn’t yet have full information about his units.
The situation at Al-Diwaniyah, where a heavy combat has been going on for 3 days, has become a little clearer. Currently all American forces have been pushed away from the town. Early morning an American helicopter was attacked. Its crew died. Another helicopter was shot down and had to land to the east from Karbala. Information about its crew is being obtained.
The overall situation in the central region of Iraq is characterized by gradual reduction of the coalition activity and change to active defense. But extraordinary dispersion of the ground forces, their fragmentation (the biggest group now contains up to 12 thousand troops) create advantageous preconditions for Iraqi counter-attacks, but the air superiority of the coalition severely complicate such projects. If, due to weather conditions, the coalition forces lose their air support, it may have very dramatic consequences.
At the south of Iraq the British advance on Basra is losing its strength as well and may already stop during the next two days. Currently the British have been unable to achieve any serious success on this direction, and fights are only occur at the outskirts of the city.
The British command had to admit that it had underestimated the strength of Iraqi resistance and was unable to reveal the structure and number of Basra defenders fully and operatively. Currently in the city and the Fao peninsula, according to the British data, about 5 thousand of regular Iraqi military forces are defending (parts of 51st Mechanized Division of general Khaled Khatim Saleh al-Hashimi) and up to 5-7 thousand volunteers and militiamen. At the same time, British hopes for an armed Shia revolt have been ruined. The Shia leaders in Iran called their Iraqi coreligionists to fight against English and American “satanists” and “Zionists”, leaving British without their “best card” in the plan of capturing Basra. 3 men were killed and 8 wounded yesterday.
At the North of Iraq desultory fightings between Kurdish troops “peshmerga” and Iraqi forces are going on. The morning messages about the town Kalak captured have not been confirmed yet, and according to the radio surveillance data the actions only take place at the approaches of the town. For now, Kurds are mainly busy robbing neighboring villages and transporting the stolen goods into their basic regions. According to American special forces which have recently been replaced here, sometimes after capturing a village up to half of the Kurdish squadron abandon their positions. They load stolen property into captured cars and leave for their homes to be back next morning for new salvage.
But apart from clear marauding of “peshmerga”, the coalition command has more and more problems with keeping the decent moral level of their fighting soldiers. Spite and irritability are growing even in British troops, which were always “correct enough” towards the civilians on the occupied territories. In increasing frequency British soldiers show violence and rudeness towards civilians. At a recent consultation at the British HQ, a representative of the military police command pointed at the fact that even actions of arresting people suspected in underground activities occur with unnecessary violence and publicity, and resemble rather intimidation than special police operations. The command issued a special order regarding the required behavior in the occupied regions, but even after it had been published a few analogous incidents were registered.
An event that had happened 5 days before also received publicity at the coalition HQ. During a night “cleanup” in one of suburban houses near An-Nasiriya three marines shot a man and afterwards raped and shot his wife. The command got information about this accident from one of its informers. After interrogation the marines were sent to Qatar for additional investigations.
In increasing frequency commanders find things belonging to Iraqis in their soldiers’ rucksacks. The soldiers are discontent of their commanders attempting to cease this practice, and call those items “war salvage”. Currently the command is preparing a special order regarding this issue.
Translated by Necroman