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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Retreat? 

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Piecing together four completely disparate news items, I think I can prove that there is either going to be a small, token troop draw down for the mid term elections - something like a small brigade level drawdown.

Or this is an exercise just to test a new way to extract our assets out of theatre.

There is a plan for it, and it will be harder than you can imagine for reasons you might not have thought of. It has to do with the M1A2 main battle tank. It has to do with the introduction of four AC-130 Spectre Gunships into Iraq. And it has to do with a single line in an article that hit me literally in the middle of the night.

More on the flip.

About a month after the invasion, the US established some 60 forward operations area inside occupied Iraq. After 14 months of insurgency, the US Army began closing some of the posts and consolidating them to cut down on patrols and deaths. By about 14 months ago, most US combat assets operated out of 6 main outposts including the Green Zone.

These days most of our injuries come from Improvised Explosive Devices that are so deadly, every single combat area patrol out of the Green Zone, or some other forward area, becomes a death trap. What this means is that heavy armoured vehicles inside Iraq are compound away until they are rotated out in a convoy. Crews end up praying that they can avoid IEDs. Sometimes the IEDs are on the same roads we have already cleared a million times. The result is that for all of our reconnaissance and unmanned vehicles, we cannot stop insurgents from cutting off our outposts until they resemble Fort Apache.

So the question is, how are we going to drive a thousand vehicles out of Iraq if we do not have control of the road between Baghdad Airport and the Green Zone- which is less than ten miles?

The US uses about 350 heavy tanks and about 150 lighter M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles per heavy division.

So if you take the Army 4th ID up North, Army 3rd ID in Al Anbar province, and 3rd Marines also in Al Anbar, and the British force in the south you have about 1300 heavy armoured vehicles in combat theatre. Anyone remember how these tanks and Bradleys and Strykers got there? They were not airlifted in. These were driven from ships to Kuwaiti forward deployment areas on the backs of flatbed trucks. Then they drove into Iraq.

We now know that the insurgents have figured out that they do not have to penetrate the famous side and frontal armour of the Abrams. All you need to do is break a single tread link and you have 140,000 pounds of stuck-in-the-mud. Bradleys and Hummers can all be destroyed easily.


First piece of the puzzle: The American military even plans to build special, more defensible highways here, in its frustrating standoff with the makeshift munitions — "improvised explosive devices" — that Iraqi insurgents field by the hundreds to hobble U.S. road movements in the 3-year-old conflict. Uh...the roads are the topic.





Answer? We are going to have to build our own highways all the way out of the country.

So we will bring some heavy vehicles out of theatre. Why else bring the capabilities to combat engineer your way back out of country that you liberated?

So that brings us a second problem. If we cannot take 8 vehicles to patrol around the city, then how are we going to march an entire division out? Well we probably won’t bring an entire division out. We will probably start brigade by brigade. If we can barely stop the insurgents from replanting IEDs right after we have detonated them, then we need to use aircraft that can see people in the dark while it loiters silently and can lay down enough fire to cover a retreat. We need a weapon that can keep groups of people miles away from a road.


The second piece to the puzzle. The Air Force is moving heavily-armed A-C-130 airplanes back to Iraq, in a bid to find new ways to fight the Iraqi resistance.

An Associated Press reporter saw one of the aircraft after it landed at an Iraqi base. Four of the gunships are expected there.

The airplanes have operated over Iraq before, but from airfields elsewhere in the region. Basing the planes in Iraq will make their travel time much shorter.

The planes' guns helped support the U-S attack on Fallujah in November 2004. On top of their potent firepower, they also offer intelligence-gathering to the battle against insurgent operations -- with sophisticated long-range video, infrared and radar sensors.

The gunships were designed mainly to drop saturated fire on massed troops, and were used to take out North Vietnamese supply convoys.





OK, you select out a brigade and deploy all it’s vehicles to the nearest highway. You begin making a parallel road and move the tanks and Bradleys down that road. The gunships stay in the air at night to cover the retreat. So crews can build new roads out, keep them safe over night, and dash out of the country.

There are only about 30 gunships in our entire arsenal. There are probably about ten AC-130s in Iraq. Is that enough to cover and entire retreating army? Not necessarily. But it might be a good way to coordinate and practice and perfect a retreat.

Final piece to the puzzle: The president made no commitments about withdrawing U.S. troops, but he repeated his general formula that Americans could come home as Iraqis eventually take over the fight. He also used the speech to urge Iraqis to form a unity government three months after parliamentary elections, and he accused Iran of providing explosives to Shiite militias attacking U.S. forces in Iraq.
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In other words, Bush isn’t ruling it out.


Don’t know if I am right. But I love to play armchair Napolean.
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