… Rumsfeld tactics fail as chief admits: “This is not what we war-gamed for” …
Washington – It has all begun to go horribly wrong for Donald Rumsfeld. The White House’s No1 hawk dreamed of a swift, hi-tech precision war. Smart bombs and Special Forces would triumphantly sweep all before them.
Basra would revolt, Baghdad would follow. Saddam would be his. But, nine days in, it hasn’t quite turned out like that.
And yesterday, as US Defence chief Donald Rumsfeld’s grand design for a quick victory lay in tatters, the coalition’s top brass were frantically redrawing battle plans. The rethink came as the US army’s most senior ground commander admitted they had underestimated Iraqi tactics and the fierce levels of resistance.
Lt General William Wallace said: “The enemy we’re fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against, because of the paramilitary forces.
“We knew they were here, but we did not know how they would fight.”
General Wallace, head of US 5th Corps, said he was aware of pressure for a quick victory, but admitted it will take longer than planned.
He said: “We’ve got to take this pause. We’re still fighting the enemy every night. We’re doing things to keep him operating at a higher tempo than the one we’re at.”
The general confessed he was stunned by Iraqi tactics.
He said: “The attacks we’re seeing are bizarre. Technical vehicles with .50-calibre weapons – any kind of weapon – leading the charge. They were even charging tanks.”
Pentagon chiefs now do not expect to launch a major offensive on Baghdad for at least a month in an attempt to quell huge pockets of fighting raging across Iraq.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, Mr Rumsfeld is still convinced the people of Baghdad will rise up and overthrow Saddam.
He says that the US will now lay siege to the capital, but he also admits: “It could take some time.”
His tone is starkly different from when he confidently crowed at a US air base at Aviano on February 7: “It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”
One senior military official said last night: “We’re not going back to the drawing board completely – but it’s pretty close.”
The US now plans to step up the air strikes – aping the 35-day bombing campaign that started the first Gulf War – as spy chiefs confirmed Saddam was alive and in full control of his forces.
Colonel Ben Hodges, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 101st in northern Iraq, said: “Everybody’s frame of reference is changing. The enemy always gets a vote. You fight the enemy and not the plan.
“I personally underestimated the willingness of the Fedayeen to fight, or maybe overestimated the willingness of the Shi’ites to rise up.”
A snapshot of the coalition problems is Nassiriya where intense fire-fights have resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.
Injured Gunnery Sergeant Tracy Hale said: “Nassiriya was supposed to be a six-hour battle. It’s already been five days of non-stop fighting.”
It was anticipated that Saddam would go for an urban defence, centred on Baghdad.
But what the war-planners didn’t expect was house-to-house battles in every major town while militia fighters attacked troops from the rear and sabotaged supply lines.
Troops less than 60 miles from Baghdad are unable to go any further as they run low on food, fuel and water.
A 300-truck US convoy carrying 160,000 gallons of fuel and 180 tons of ammunition has been trying to get north from Kuwait for more than three days, but has been blocked by guerrilla-style attacks.
Iraq has said troops will have to fight their way into Baghdad street by street. “The enemy must come inside Baghdad and that will be its grave,” said Defence Minister Sultan Hashem Ahmed.
Rumsfeld was warned by the CIA in February that fedayeen fighters would pose the greatest threat.
And in Qatar, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks hinted that Central Command may be out of touch with the real situation on the ground.
He said: “There is a different view on planet Earth.”
AWFUL TRUTH IS DAWNING ON ALL OF US
The prospect of our troops fighting their way into Basra and Baghdad will mean it’s going to be a very basic and bloody war, not the hi-tech video game politicians led us to believe.
A tough time lies ahead for our troops and the Iraqi civilians they are there to liberate.
These are things British and American military planners have always known but, it seems, the politicians never listened to.
The awful truth is now dawning on all of us as stories of deaths and Iraqi resistance continue to reach our TV screens hourly.
We shouldn’t be surprised Iraqis are fighting in civilian clothes.That is how you tackle a superior force. The troops have likened our equipment to Ferraris and compared the enemies’ to Austin Allegros.
But as they know only too well, once you are fighting house-to-house instead of on open terrain it doesn’t really matter what the weapons are like. Even if it’s 60 years old and firing at you from a window it will kill you.
This sort of urban guerrilla war boils down to our troops fighting house-to-house, street-to-street with bayonets fixed and as much ammunition as they can carry.
Mobility and manoeuvre hit a dead end in the condensed and confusing concrete of Baghdad. Hi-tech equipment and armour is of limited use as our troops push into the city trying to keep the infrastructure intact, and civilians alive at the same time.
Iraqi soldiers have the advantage. They know its streets and alleyways. They have prepared booby traps and set up “killing areas” to try and lure our troops into.
None of this will come as a surprise to our troops. After all, they train to fight against an enemy such as this and are excellent at it. As the Army saying goes. Train hard – fight easy. Train easy – fight hard and die. But that doesn’t mean they are immune to the danger. There will be fear as they approach the capital.
I get angry when politicians tell us that the Iraqi Republican guard are no match for our troops and equipment. They tend to be people who have never seen combat.
The fact is the Republican Guard have artillery pieces, plenty of tanks, and are certainly much better armed than soldiers our troops have so far faced in the desert.
We just have to look at what an inferior force such as the Palestinians can inflict when taking on the Israelis in their home towns.
Over the last few days we’ve seen the war escalate and casualties grow.
What the politicians led us to believe isn’t quite shaping up. They began by telling us that this war would be quick and easy. They are now beginning to shift uncomfortably.
America is suddenly doubling its forces in Iraq – something the military had wanted all along. Politicians were not listening.
But Rumsfeld – and the others like him- have never been in combat and never properly listened to military advice.
Military planners who wanted more men from the outset were told this war was too important to be left to the generals. But these generals must be listened to.
They can then operate in a way that wins the war quickly – and saves our troops’ lives.