Observations in Falluja

Belmont Club:

...

"But the physical fragility of the enemy redoubt may perhaps is the single reason the USMC might not need to assault the area at all, except in its most final, weakened stages. The battle for this urban maze will be largely a battle for line of sight as it probably has been from the beginning. The press reportage of USMC sniper-spotter teams has mentioned but not emphasized the fact that they possess imaging devices, comms and computers (and probably range finders) apart from their rifles. Their most damaging function has perhaps not been shooting (although that has been bad enough) as much as observation. One can almost imagine enemy movements being correlated from several observers onto a very detailed intel map. The physical characteristics of Fallujah, but especially the lightly built 'Golan' means that enemy safety depends utterly on visual concealment, not reinforced concrete fortification. Once an enemy position is known, it is extremely vulnerable to high angle downward attack. There is nothing between a Jihadi unit and an AC-130's Gatling guns except a sheet of galvanized iron roofing: he is dead once his position is known. I will venture to speculate that a subsidiary goal of the limited air strikes has been to open fields of view to observers.

"That fact makes it very desirable for the US to encourage surrenders, both civilian and otherwise, because of the information they can provide, besides getting them out of the way. This goes a long way toward explaining why the Jihadis have chosen to keep their wounded in the fetid confines of the slum rather than allow them to be treated in a Fallujah hospital. They fear what may be revealed under questioning. But the dynamics of the siege mean that US will continue to gain the upper hand until a breaking point is reached. In a struggle in which visual information is paramount, the US will continue to throw a curtain of blackness over the enemy even as it enhances its own acuity. As the batteries of the enemy night vision equipment and radios drain out or are lost, the defense will grow ever more blind. The moon will begin to wane in 10 days and the hopes of the Jihadis with it."

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