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Edited by Christian Lowe | Contact

FALLUJAH PUSH: BY THE BOOK?

041021-M-8096K-036.jpgMaybe this means something. I'm more than willing to believe it doesn't. But I found it a little odd that the U.S. military's push into Fallujah seems to be almost 180 degrees opposed to the tactics and techniques laid out in the Army's new Counterinsurgency Operations field manual.

In Fallujah, if the news reports are to be believed, U.S. armed forces are engaged in a classic, house-to-house battle, to remove Fallujah as a guerilla base of operations. Overwhelming firepower, and manpower, have been brought to bear – gunships and artillery, more than ten thousand soldiers and marines. For months, everyone has known the attack was coming.

Now look at what the manual – unearthed by Inside the Pentagon and Secrecy News – suggests for counterinsurgent "Offensive Operations":

• Concentrate on elimination of the insurgents, not on terrain objectives…

• Get counterinsurgency forces out of garrisons, cities, and towns; off the roads and trails into the environment of the insurgents…

• Avoid establishment of semipermanent patrol bases laden with artillery and supplies that tend to tie down the force. (Pay special attention to prevent mobile units from becoming fixed.)

• Emphasize secrecy and surprise…

• Judicious application of the minimum destruction concept in view of the overriding requirements to minimize alienating the population. (For example, bringing artillery or air power to bear on a village from which sniper fire was received may neutralize insurgent action but will alienate the civilian population as a result of casualties among noncombatants.)

Doesn't sound quite the same, does it?

Now, of course, no battle is fought exactly "by the book." And the field manual's section on "Clear and Hold" operations – aimed at dislodging guerillas from an area they control – does feel a bit more like the Fallujah push. There are calls for "military forces clearly superior to the insurgent force," "emergency legislation to provide a legal basis for population and resource control measures," and "psychological preparation of the population of adjacent areas." That's reminiscent of the build-up of U.S. troops, the recent declaration of a state of emergency by Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Alawi's, and of the long, slow ratcheting up of pressure on Fallujah.

But that section also warns that "no area or its population that has been subjected to the intensive organizational efforts of a subversive insurgent organization can be won back until… the insurgent hard-core organization and its support structure has been neutralized or eliminated." And given the U.S. Army's admission that insurgent leaders like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi likely slipped out of Fallujah before the attack, that seems like a goal that will remain outstanding.

THERE'S MORE: "I'm sure the commanders know the manual," says Winds of Change's Joe Katzman. "I suspect that political constraints made a number of its prescriptions moot, or that the commanders decided to treat it as a conventional urban warfare pitched battle. It happens, and I'm reluctant to second guess people on the ground who have all the facts, but it's good to know what's in that manual."

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