Phantom Analyst Recap
The Agonist Weblog
Before anyone gets tetchy about copyright, yes, I am The Phantom Analyst. I offer this evening recap of some militarily relevant events in the Iraqi theater of operations, with some ten-cent commentary at the bottom.
2047 EST: CNN Satellite
pix show light cloud cover over most of Iraq
. Prediction of sunny weather w/high pressures over Syria
, decreasing to partly sunny at Basra
. Twin lows over central Iran
and southern Saudi Arabia
- Iraqi Def. Minister: Coalition '140km from Baghdad outskirts.' (Gulf daily News)
- 1910 EST: More news on those Harir/Bashur area airlifts of the 1st Inf. Div; 'constant' stream of aircraft reported at airfield, likely coming from Germany where the 1st ID is stationed.
- 1922 EST: U.S. Marine Corps 24th MEU ordered to Kuwait, rather than return home from deployment.
- 2136 EST: Coalition Armor (Tanks?) seen in Maan, Jordan.
- 2141 EST: U.S. Special forces control the West of Iraq, 170miles in from the border. Area contains airfields and possible SCUD hideouts.
- 2225 EST: 'Several hundred' US Delta Force, CIA paramilitary and UK SAS troops are 'inside Baghdad' to disrupt Iraqi activity during battle for capital.
2224 EST: Abu Dhabi TV reports heavy fighting at An Najaf through nightfall. Units of the 3ID encircled the city and attempted to clear Iraqi forces from the outskirts, but retreated to a wider perimeter after losing a couple of tanks.
- 2000 EST: CENTCOM announces destruction of a 'major C3I and comm center' in Baghdad (BBC)
- 1650 EST: RAF Fairford: Add'l B-52 strikes outbound.
CENTCOM announced that the Shatt al-Arab pathway to Umm Qasr had been cleared to 60 yards wide; while widening it to 200 yards they discovered additional subsurface mines ('bottom-influenced') and they are clearing those to allow larger vessels safe passage.
- First resupply aircraft into Tallil Airbase, Central Iraq, held by American forces. Iraqi airbase 20 km SW of An Nasiriyah.
The 1st ID airlift
is good news; units of the 1st ID are likely coming from Schweinfurt, Germany
where they are based. If they are being airlifted, then only the infantry units are coming. There are 4 battalion
s of pure infantry in the 1ID at around 600 soldiers per battalion. Bashur, the only field on which I can find specs, lists the runway at 6700 feet, enough for C-130
s and C-17
The 24th MEU is a self-contained battalion-sized unit stationed on three U.S. Navy Amphibious landing ships; it consists of a small armor section, a battalion of infantry, and an aviation section of transport and attack helicopters along with a few Harrier jets. It is designed to be a 'ready response' force in times of crisis, and as a MEU(SOC) it is trained up to perform Special Operations missions when more specialized Special Operations Forces cannot reach its deployment area in time. While it may be a small force, it is a well-rounded one.
Tallil airbase being active is a good step towards shortening and securing the logistics train from Kuwait and perhaps Saudi Arabia up to the forward forces. Theater transports such as the C-130 and transport helos can haul supplies to within 20km of An Nasiriyah. This should improve the situation vis-a-vis rear area security; however, it will not remove the necessity for convoy security along roads to the south, merely offer an additional supply route.
The weather promises to be favorable to Coalition air power on Friday.
The heavy fighting in the An Najaf outskirts, if correct, suggests that the Coalition has Iraqi forces mostly bottled up inside the city. While this is good news for Coalition operations in the region, in does mean that significant combat power will be tied up either eliminating or containing these units, and until this situation changes, these units will be unavailable for any assault on Baghdad. As seen in Basra, the Coalition will have difficulty bringing its firepower to bear while the Iraqi forces remain commingled with civilians inside An Najaf. In addition, the tendency of local road nets to pass through smaller towns rather than ring them means transport past An Najaf *may* be limited to tracked or off-road capable vehicles for the time being.
More as it happens.
The Phantom Analyst a.k.a The Custodian