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War Analysis by Dr. David McIntyre - March 22 - 2003-03-23


MR. BORGIDA:
Joining us now, Dr. David McIntyre, our military analyst from the ANSER Institute here in the Washington, D.C. area.

Dr. McIntyre, thanks for joining us today. Let's talk first about Basra and the effort to move into that key town. Why is it so important to this operation?

DR. MCINTYRE:
Well, it's for several reasons, but the single greatest one, of course, is its location as a port. You have port facilities a little closer to the ocean inlet, and then at Basra itself, that allow you to bring other forces and bring relief supplies in, unload them there, and then move them on the road network further to the north, both for the relief of the people and to support the military effort.

MR. BORGIDA:
If we could see our map for our viewers, a little bit of what Basra looks like in relationship to the region there, and you can show us what is actually happening there as these troops are moving in, Dr. McIntyre.

DR. MCINTYRE:
The first thing that happened was that British marines on the American flank moved from Kuwait up and took the very closest port facilities right on the edge of the water. And then, next to them, U.S. marines moved up toward Basra itself. So, they have surrounded, moved around Basra, and are moving into it. And of course, that's going to be extremely critical, because there is a network of roads and port facilities that would allow ships to come in through the ocean and offload the equipment that I was talking about and also the relief supplies.

Now, the question that was sort of pending for the last day or two was exactly what would happen with the armored forces. The 3rd Infantry Division is what the U.S. forces have called it. But remember, a U.S. infantry division is very heavily mechanized, with tanks and armored personnel carriers. And so we saw them move from Kuwait, out into the desert. Then the question was, would they move across into the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates, or would they move up the outside, to the west? It appears, from press reports, that they're making the crossing and are going to move into the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, and will be moving up that valley toward Baghdad.

MR. BORGIDA:
Fascinating to watch all this, for those of us who are not in the business of analyzing the military strategy. Let's look at another topic, Dr. McIntyre, and that is the ground effort to get into Baghdad. I think, as we noted in one of our reports, ground troops are one-third, roughly, perhaps a little more, on their way to Baghdad. Describe for us -- and if we could, we'll get the other map up on the screen -- and talk a little bit about this effort to reach Baghdad.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Well, we've had a variety of efforts that are all coming together in a plan. And I guess the single most important point to understand is that although many people have talked about this as if it were going to be a matter of hours or days, this is going to take a while, I believe. First, to repeat what we just said, the British marines moved very close to the water. The U.S. marines moved further toward Baghdad. And then the 3rd Infantry Division appears to be going to cross and move up the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.

To support that, we've had an air campaign around Baghdad that has attacked troop locations, command-and-control locations, air defense locations, all of those command facilities that would control any kind of obstacles to prevent the U.S. advance.

Another thing that's happened during the last day or two has been the seizing of airports out to the west that will eventually be used to reinforce, move in U.S. forces, as we move toward Baghdad.

One interesting point was some activity very far to the north that would apparently have been special operations forces. And so that's sort of what we've seen in the last day or two. And what we're going to see eventually is a fight -- it appears to be unless the forces surrender -- a fight right around Baghdad. And exactly how that's going to play out, we just don't know right now.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk about that as we wind up our segment here in the next couple of minutes. The fight for Baghdad will be, one might imagine, perhaps a little more intense than what we've seen so far. We've described on the program relatively light resistance from Iraqis, but tell us, if you can speculate at this point, what's going on. Is it that the elite Republican Guard units are gathered around Baghdad and waiting for the American troops to come in, or is it something else?

DR. MCINTYRE:
The Republican Guard units have clearly concentrated around Baghdad. Now, one of the reasons there has been relatively light resistance so far is that Iraq is a big country, and a lot of it is open. And so we've been crossing against relatively light resistance. As we approach Baghdad, the Iraqis will decide whether they're going to defend outside or whether they're going to try to break up and move into Baghdad, which of course would cause much more damage.

At some point, I think there is going to have to be a pause point, where U.S. forces sort of gather themselves, depending on Iraqi decisions, on whether to move forward. And one of the things that's really going to [come into] play -- if we look at the map just one more time -- one of the things that is going to come into play here is that the 4th Infantry Division, on ships, which has been way far to the north, is going to be making a long movement by ship, around, reports say today, and apparently to come in to these port facilities. And then they will have to move up toward Baghdad.

Now, whether that collapse in Baghdad takes place very quickly and the U.S. forces move quickly or whether the Guards hold out longer and have to wait for these additional troops to catch up with the U.S. and then make a more concerted effort, we're just going to have to see how that plays over the next couple of days.

MR. BORGIDA:
Now, quickly, in about 30 seconds or so, you noted yesterday with us how important it was that the lights and electricity remain on in Baghdad, signaling that this is not an effort to attack Iraqi civilians but rather to get at the command-and-control structure.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Right.

MR. BORGIDA:
And from what you have seen in the last 24 hours, that remains the case?

DR. MCINTYRE:
Absolutely. I'm a little concerned at the term that many media have used, "shock and awe," because the suggestion seems to be that we're trying to shock the Iraqi population. In fact, that's not the case at all. It's the Iraqi military that's the goal here and the Iraqi leadership. And the attempt is to demonstrate to them a sense of hopelessness, that there isn't any reason to fight this out, and what they really ought to do is think about the future of their country, how they can best serve their own people, which would be to join with the coalition forces in rebuilding Iraq.

MR. BORGIDA:
Excellent explanation. The views of Dr. David McIntyre of the ANSER Institute here in Washington. Thanks to much, Dr. McIntyre. Great insight as usual and we appreciate it.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Glad to be with you, sir.

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