April 22, 2005

War Stories

Some items from and about the fighting in Iraq:

First, an update on Wednesday's post about the alleged mass kidnapping in Madain. This BBC report suggests that in fact insurgents may have operated from that town but the kidnapping never took place. That's the good news; the bad news is that a large number of individual kidnappings, assassinations and various other bad things have been going on in that area for at least the last two months, the fruits of which were what President Talabani announced Tuesday had been fished out of the Tigris River. Were the victims all Shiites targeted by the insurgency? A mix of Shiites, and Sunnis killed in retaliation? Victims of criminal activity? According to the BBC it may be some time before the bodies can even be identified.

Second, the Canadian military blogger Bruce Rolston posts some informed speculation about the circumstances of the Mi-8 helicopter downing yesterday. An RPG hit rather than a SAM is most probable, according to Rolston, based on how quickly insurgents arrived at the crash site, and the Bulgarian-piloted helicopter may have been flying a route familiar to insurgents in the area.

Third, it is possible to find descriptive and even graphic accounts of fighting in Iraq in American media. It isn't even particularly difficult as long as you don't rely solely on television. The Washington Post's Steve Fainaru and Ann Scott Tyson had two such accounts earlier this last week. Tyson's piece suggests what a military presence stretched thin feels like to the Army soldiers on the ground south of Baghdad.

Fainaru describes a coordinated insurgent attack on a Marine unit near the Syrian border, featuring large suicide bombs supported by mortars and RPG fire. On the one hand the insurgency's ability to put together an attack so sophisticated does not suggest it is ready to fade away, but instead is trying, as one Marine captain says, for a "big score." This would be a fairly significant change of tactics on the insurgency's part. On the other hand, going for a big score can carry a big price; this Marine unit counted three of its own lightly wounded, with 19 insurgents killed. Both Post articles should be read all the way through.

Posted by at April 22, 2005 05:12 PM | TrackBack (3)

I would not discount the SAM/MANPAD posibility. There are still thousand of unaccount MANPAD systems in Iraq. The problem with many of them are their batteries.

Posted by: Minhduc Phan at April 22, 2005 11:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Thanks for the links to the two WaPo articles, Joseph. It certainly does appear that an organized insurgency is getting underway in Iraq.

I guess it's too early to tell at this point, but I wonder if we have enough troops in country to deal with what looks to be a serious resistance movement.

Posted by: Lester Alvarez at April 23, 2005 10:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Launching attacks head on against American forces, at Abu Ghraib, and other places, is suicidal.

It's a roll of the dice for a spectacular success that will be trumped up by domestic opponents (one they almost got with the fire-engine attack). They need it because in light of the large scale recent arrests and successful elections, their own side's morale is falling.

As for the helicopter, I'd personally say it was probably a MANPAD. This wasn't a combat helicopter loitering over a target area. For the insurgents to be close enough to the path of a transport helicopter to fire an RPG and hit it is extreme odds.

Posted by: Cutler at April 23, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There was quite a good analysis concerning Madain in The Times Friday - see.

Posted by: DavidP at April 27, 2005 01:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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