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War Analysis by David McIntyre - 2003-04-04


MR. BORGIDA
Joining us now, our military analyst, Dr. David McIntyre, a retired U.S. Army colonel, who has been with us throughout the war. Colonel McIntyre, a complicated battlefield; bring us up to date.

DR. MCINTYRE
Yes, it's a very complex picture, but I think with a quick look at the map we can touch on the high points. Of course, what we have really been looking at as far as the Iraqis are concerned are those divisions that they had in place south of Baghdad. What we've seen in the last couple of days has been, first of all, the employment of U.S. troops to finally secure the areas right around these key towns. And so the key towns, although the centers may not be under control, the road networks are under control. And that's extremely important, because it means a steady flow of U.S. military forces, not just the marines and 3rd Infantry Division at the head, but now all along these roads you're seeing reinforcements flow back in.

The Iraqi divisions that were south of Baghdad have been largely destroyed by air attacks. And what is left is a number of troops that have streamed to the south, but they have not been units moving to the south. They have been soldiers, small units, infiltrating, taking up positions, broken up.

And one last point that is very, very important has been the U.S. taking these dams, special operations forces, taking the dams north of Kabala, so that the area cannot be flooded. So, what you're going to see next, what we're talking about right now, is the U.S. forces that are moving up south of Baghdad, and now we're going to take a look at exactly what happens when those troops come in contact right around the area of Baghdad.

If we move to our next map, it gives us a little better vision of exactly what we're talking about. The fighting right now is taking place just southwest of Baghdad, about where the airport is located, about 10 miles to the southwest. And of course, the marines are to the east of that area. And the big point is going to be all of these river crossings, a huge number of river crossings, the bridges right here, those are going to allow those supplies to flow in from the south, as we've talked in the past, with this steady flow of American soldiers moving up those supply routes over the next couple of days.

MR. BORGIDA
Colonel, let's talk a little bit of military tactics here. And of course, this is still in the realm of some speculation, let's make sure our viewers understand that. But in terms of tactics, the British troops had some success in Basra, where they were outside the city but didn't forge ahead. They waited outside, in and out, in and out, borrowing from some tactics that they learned from the Northern Ireland situation. What can we expect in the current context around Baghdad with the U.S. troops?

DR. MCINTYRE
It's hard to know exactly what to expect. Certainly, they want to break armed resistance wherever they can find it. And wherever you find units, organized units, I think you are going to see close coordination of artillery, air attacks and ground attacks to eliminate those units. But once the larger units are eliminated, I think you are going to see they are beginning to look at and borrow those tactics from the British.

Remember that the British in Northern Ireland for years have not tried to seize or hold a block at a time, two or three buildings at a time. They have not tried to eliminate the place where snipers might be firing. Instead, what they do is step back, set up these sort of armed camps, and then they make raids forward based on local intelligence. And that's the key here, that the British have had great success. And now those American forces that we looked at down to the south and in Najaf have had great success in using local Iraqis as intelligence sources. And I think we may see that as we get into Baghdad.

MR. BORGIDA
Now, we have seen in recent days the relentless bombardment beginning around now, or in this time period, as nightfall descends on Baghdad. Would you imagine that we would see more air strikes, or is it now past that point?

DR. MCINTYRE
Well, you're going to continue to see some, as soon as communication sites are identified. Remember that up until this point we've been listening to some sites to see what we can learn. At this point there is no point in listening to them anymore and you'll see them attacked.

But the really key point I think at this moment to understand is that we keep using the word "Iraqi." It kind of sort of comes to us. But Iraq is really many, many groups. Some of them are Iraqi citizens from Baghdad, from the north. Some are Shiites. They have religious differences. Some people feel they have been oppressed by this regime.

What we're really dealing with now -- this is an important point -- now that the main force Iraqi units have been broken as military units, what we're really dealing with is a collection of criminals. These people know that if they are captured, the new Iraqi government is going to try them. These are the people who were doing the tortures. These are the people that were doing the rapes. And so they do have a reason to fight as individuals to the end because they know that justice is headed their way.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, again, I've been reluctant to talk a little bit about post-Iraq and what might occur there, but you bring it up, so let's pursue it for a moment. If it's going to be difficult in this context, with all these different groups, with different agendas, how will it be like from a military standpoint to establish a level of stability there, given all this confusion?

DR. MCINTYRE
The important thing to note is that at some point there will be a transition from the military taking the lead to the point that diplomacy and local officials take the lead. Now, that local Iraqi government has not been established yet. We don't know who that's going to be. But once it is, they will have to have their own police force. They will have to reconstitute some sort of military force of their own in cooperation with the Americans. And at that point the use of American patrols, British patrols, Australian Special Forces will be subordinate to the idea of standing up and supporting that government. What we will be looking for is some stability, some breathing room for that government to exist.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's also not forget, however, that it still remains a very dangerous environment, and in the days and perhaps weeks ahead, anything can happen?

DR. MCINTYRE
I think weeks are probably better than days. Different governments, different totalitarian regimes, collapse in different ways. In some totalitarian regimes the leader is gone and the whole thing just implodes. Sometimes it just fritters away. And so you get a little fighting here and a little fighting there, and the people are eventually absorbed and they're pointed out by local townspeople. And it takes weeks, months, years to arrest them all. We don't know which way that's going to go.

MR. BORGIDA
It does seem, finally, that more and more Iraqi citizens perhaps are giving some aid to U.S. troops.

DR. MCINTYRE
Right. But they've got to have confidence. That's the key point. They have to have confidence that this is not something that is going to happen for a day or a week, but that in fact the regime is gone, changed, somebody new is in power, and they can trust those new people in power to step forward and point out the thugs and the criminals.

MR. BORGIDA
Colonel, thanks so much.

DR. MCINTYRE
Good to be with you.

MR. BORGIDA
Dr. David McIntyre, again giving us the insight we so badly need in this difficult time. Thanks so much for joining us.

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