Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Noon Update

Something I missed from the story earlier this morning is that US forces moving from the north yesterday reached Highway 10 running through the central part of the city. So the city has been successfully divided. What is happening in areas the US has pushed through? Doubtful that they are depleting combat power by leaving elements behind as they go. More than likely, there is a unit - battalion or regimental-sized - that has been assigned Rear Area Operations. (Don't confuse this with the mission of the 24th MEU in Babil province). The rear area unit would consolidate control of key terrain in the areas already swept, and would hold and control key routes for logistics sustainment to flow. During the invasion, this mission was assigned to Task Force Tarawa (the name given at the time to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade). This is why Task Force Tarawa suffered so many casualties in Nasiriyah after the 1st Marine Division and follow on supporting forces had already moved through the city. (Note that a Marine Brigade includes organic aviation, combat, and support units and is between 10,000 and 20,000 personnel, much larger than an Army brigade, which is around 3000 and is only a combat force.) Another note: several quotes over the past days from Col Formica, Commander of Army's 2nd Brigade. From earlier today: "Col. Michael Formica, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade, said Tuesday that a security cordon around the city would be tightened to insure insurgents dressed in civilian clothing did not slip out. "My concern now is only one — not to allow any enemy to escape. As we tighten the noose around him, he will move to escape to fight another day. I do not want these guys to get out of here. I want them killed or captured as they flee," he said." Col Formica's unit, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cav, is probably conducting some of the cordoning of the city. Given the terrain outside the city, it would make sense to use an armored force. Unless a whole Army brigade is involved, why would Formica be quoted? So here is how the battlefield looks: In the city: 31st MEU, comprised of two Marine infantry battalions, one Army mechanized infantry battalion and the MEU's organic assets. 1st Marine Regiment, comprised of two Marine infantry battalions, and one Army Cavalry battalion (armored). Total: about 6000-8000 forces, including attachments. Outside the city 2nd Brigade of 1st Cav Division, performing cordoning, screening, or blocking mission. US Marine Light Armored Reconnaissance battalions, and Reconnaissance battalion, also performing screening missions, or occupying key terrain (bridges). Still no definitive word on the locations and dispositions of the Iraqi National units (three brigades). Note: the vast majority of Marine tanks in theater are probably in use in Fallujah as are Marine Assault Amphibious Vehicles (with a few in key areas in Ramadi etc.) More to come . . .


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