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Military Analysis by Dr. David McIntyre - 2003-04-08

VOA-TV’s David Borgida talks with Dr. David McIntyre of the ANSER Institute of Homeland Security, and a defense analyst, about the war in Iraq. Dr. McIntyre discusses the challenges of building a new government in Iraq as well as the ongoing search for Sadaam and weapons of mass destruction.

Now joining us, our military analyst, Dr. David McIntyre, a retired U.S. Army colonel, who has been with us throughout this campaign.

Colonel, we weren't on the air over the weekend. A lot has been going on. Even though much of the attention is on Baghdad, a lot has been going on throughout the country. Would you bring us up to date on our map here and show us what has been going on in the last 24 hours or so?

Sure, we'll take a look at the map. And we'll see that most of the action, of course, as you correctly described, has really been talked about around Baghdad, as American troops moved north and south with the folks from the 101st flanking it off to the side. But there has been an awful lot in the south, with the troops from the United Kingdom. They have moved into Basra now, not completely secured it but apparently the resistance is much smaller because of the amount of force that they were able to put on the ground. That is the place that they have been finding some reports of chemicals, but, more importantly, it's the place that the population, now that it's clear that Saddam's forces are gone, have really been responding to them.

And then you have U.S. forces, special forces, still up in the north that are mixing in with Kurdish fighters. They are not moving rapidly south. They are holding a line north and putting constant pressure on those forces north. So what you really see is action all over the country, but the ring right around Baghdad.

If we want to move to the map of the city itself, we can take a look at that.

What you really saw over this weekend was the movement of U.S. forces both to the left and right. The 3rd Infantry Division had started to the south, and the marines to the west and the marines off to the east. And these troops began to move around the city in larger and larger circles. So, they have essentially used the river right in the city as sort of a dividing line, with the 3rd Infantry Division to the south and west and the marines to the west and to the north. And in addition to that, their flank is being secured by troops from the 101st Airborne Division, of course. And they are especially right around the airfield in this location.

And they have set up roadblocks to try to cut off the entire city. And what you're seeing now is some fights as troops pour into or troops move into the city. And you saw that around the palace.

Colonel, a great explanation of what's going on in Baghdad, and we'll get to that more in a moment, but I don't want to leave Basra for the moment, because apparently the British troops are dealing with a lot of looting and instability there. And I'm sure there are those who are saying that this could be a look at Iraq in other places in the weeks and months ahead. That is, a sense of lawlessness and instability. What do you make of what's going on in Basra?

Well, it's a real concern. And what we are seeing in Basra, I'm afraid, may in fact foretell what we'll see in the rest of the country. It's sort of taking place in stages. To begin with, the British troops moved around and secured the edges of it, the outside edges of it, and then they did forays into the town, where they found mostly a responsive populace but an awful lot of armed insurgents. These are people that were Saddam's folks. They weren't local population. They had been brought in. And so they had to go in with heavier forces. They did go eventually street to street. Now that those people have been driven out, there is no government to replace.

And that's one of the problems we're going to face all the way through Iraq. It's not just getting rid of Saddam or just getting rid of the Republican Guards. There is no legitimate government to take over behind the military forces as they arrive. And there is concern that in place after place, until a legitimate government can be created and put in place that you may find resistance.

You and I have talked about this off camera, but the truth is, when you talk about the search for Saddam and those leaders around him, you're talking about a culture of support for Saddam, a government of support for Saddam. How deeply do U.S. and British troops go to find those who were supportive of this regime in order to make this Iraqi freedom campaign successful?

That is a great question, and it's likely to be a real problem. Remember, at the end of the Second World War, we spent about seven years disassembling the Nazi Party in Germany. We had to change out the people that had led the schools, the people that had run the trains, the people that had been in charge of the hospitals, the people that ran the newspapers, because they had all bought into the Nazi Party ideology.

And so it's important to understand that we have more than just Saddam or just his immediate relatives or just a few Republican Guards. For two generations, a group of brutal thugs has owned every major institution in the country. And so the people there, even if they weren't part of Saddam's regime, many of them have been compromised. And the question is, how are you going to reestablish the trust that's required at the neighborhood level, at the city level, the trust, once Saddam is gone, with whatever new government takes its place? This is going to be a tremendous challenge.

Another big challenge is this continuing search for chemical and biological weapons. We referred in our report a moment ago of a find of some chemicals. It is unclear at the moment if these are in fact chemical or biological weapons for which the U.S. and British troops have been searching for these several weeks. If you can and you want to, we can go to the map of Baghdad, where troops are still looking for these things, and give us some sense of where they might be and what the challenges in terms of that are. The city map of Baghdad.

The challenge in Baghdad is that the doggone thing is just huge. I mean, you're talking perhaps 30 miles on a side, with an enormous population. And they can be hidden almost anywhere.

Now, one of the problems that we know is -- we had troops that went in and took a look at the palaces -- but we know that there have been a number of schools and hospitals, where the U.S. troops have already gone in and the British marines and 3rd Infantry Division have already gone in, taken a look at schools and hospitals, and found caches of weapons. So, we know that they have put in antitank weapons and so forth. Now the question is, is there anything there in the way of illegal weapons, the chemical and biological weapons?

We've had a number of reports. One was that troops who were trying to draw water out of the river in a water purification team down south of Baghdad had found contaminants in the water. Those are being tested.

We've had a couple of reports up to the north. But no one knows exactly what is hidden within this 30 miles by 30 miles.

And of course Iraq claims that it does not have chemical weapons and, for editorial balance, we need to say that.

That's absolutely right. That's why teams are on standby to rush in and try to identify it. But they're not going to claim chemicals until they can actually prove it. It's important to understand, we had a lot of inspectors on the ground there for several years who had a lot of access in the early 1990's, and they didn't find things because of the way that they had been hidden. Only defectors were able to actually show them where the weapons were located.

Let's talk finally in our segment about another glamorous topic, and that is the search for Saddam. U.S. troops are finding tunnels. I believe there was one in and around the international airport and so on. Could it be that there is a network of tunnels and so on that is providing sanctuary to Saddam and his supporters?

Sure. I'm confident that there is a network of underground facilities, underground tunnels to connect people and so forth. However, I suspect that this regime is so broken up that nobody is able really to communicate with one another anymore.

Now, could Saddam, could some of his immediate henchmen, could they be located in these underground facilities? Yes, that's very possible. But the larger issue is whether they have any command and control over their forces. And they don't.

What you're really seeing right now is a relatively large number, some tens of thousands, of soldiers who have abandoned their uniforms and fled into the inner city. Now, what are they going to do?

And I bet that many of them don't know whether they are going to fight or surrender or fight a little bit and then surrender. They haven't decided. But what is clear is that the central command and control is simply gone from Saddam's forces in and around Baghdad.

Dr. David McIntyre, again an insightful analysis. Dr. McIntyre, a retired U.S. Army colonel, thanks so much for joining us again. I appreciate it.

Good to be with you.