Fallujah 2.0 lessons learned

AP via Fox News:

The U.S. military's ground and air assault of Fallujah (search) has gone quicker than expected, with the entire city occupied after six days of fighting, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski said Sunday.

Natonski, who designed the ground attack, said he and other planners took lessons from the failed three-week Marine assault on the city in April, which was called off by the Bush administration after a worldwide outcry over civilians deaths. This time, the military sent in six times as many troops and 20 types of aircraft. Troops also faked attacks before the assault to confuse enemy fighters.

"Maybe we learned from April," Natonski said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We learned we can't do it piecemeal. When we go in, we go all the way through. We had the green light this time and we went all the way."

"Had we done in April what we did now, the results would've been the same," Natonski said during a visit to the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade, the unit charged with isolating Fallujah under a security cordon.

On Sunday, Marines and Army units were still battling gritty bands of defenders scattered in buildings and bunkers across the Sunni Muslim stronghold. Behind them, Iraqi troops were enmeshed in the painstaking task of clearing weapons and fighters from every room of Fallujah's estimated 50,000 buildings.


Natonski said he was astonished at how closely the battle has hued to his plan. He described the six days of ground war as a "flawless execution of the plan we drew up."

"We are actually ahead of schedule," he said.

Natonski said several pre-assault tactics made the battle easier than expected.

Insurgent defenses were weakened by bombing raids on command posts and safe houses. Air-dropped leaflets may have also demoralized some defenders and convinced some residents that the city would be better off under government control, he said.

In the days before the raid, ground troops feinted invasions, charging right up to Fallujah's edge in tanks and armored vehicles. Natonski said these fake attacks forced the insurgents to build up forces in the south and east, perhaps diverting defenders from the north, where six battalions of Army and Marine troops finally punched into the city Monday.

The deceptive maneuvers also drew fire from defenders' bunkers, which were exposed and relentlessly bombed before the ground assault.

"We desensitized the enemy to the formations they saw on the night we attacked," Natonski said.

Another key tactic was choking off the city, the responsibility of the 2nd Brigade of the Army's 1st Cavalry Division, Natonski said.

That move prevented insurgents from slipping out of the city during the assault, although many, including top leaders like Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Sheik Abdullah al-Janabi and Omar al-Hadid, are thought to have fled.

In the movie Zulu, the chief sent his warriors to stand outside the British compound drawing fire from the defenders. One of the officers ask, "What is he doing?" An observer responded, "He is counting your guns." The US in effect used the same tactic against the insurgents.


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