Where to from here? Predictive Analysis
In the coming days, US forces will continue destroying insurgent positions wherever they are found. Behind the initial assault units, follow-on forces are consolidating successes. These forces are probably composed of a large number of Iraqi units and US forces as well. The pattern of use for Iraqi forces seems to be: use them for seizing symbolic or sensitive structures, with massive US support, or use them as follow-on forces. Media reports about house-to-house fighting should be taken with a grain of salt. If I walk through my neighborhood, am I not walking house-to-house? I continue with my assertion that US forces will only enter a house for a very specific reason. The best possible reason to do house to house searches: looking for senior leaders. A noble idea, but less likely: to avoid the loss of civilian life. By going house-to-house, that is to say, clearing rooms one by one, we could prevent ourselves from shelling a building and killing both the insurgents and civilian occupants of the building. There are still other ways to do this though . . . precise fire from small arms can as effective as leveling a building, provided you can isolate the target. The US has stated that the metric used to judge the success of the battle is the establishment of a local government in Fallujah that is friendly to the National Government. This means that in the next few days, as the US continues to hammer away at insurgent positions, security and stabilization operations will commence in the city. These might be characterized as Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) because the purpose will be to install and sustain a government, not to kill enemy forces. This will signal the end of Phase II, the Ground Assault, and the beginning of Phase III: Reconstruction, Exploitation, Installation of Government. The US no doubt has certain key triggers that must be met before this happens. Phase III actions will more than likely include the installation of a governing mayor and staff chosen by Allawi's government. He'll impose martial law and enforce it with the best Iraqi troops and some US troops standing by. Over time, the US will fade out of the city and assume an observational role as the Iraqis take more and more charge. So while Shaping the Battlespace took place over two to three weeks and was gradual in its build-up, the Ground Assault is lightning fast and begins suddenly. Phase III will have a definite beginning point, but will appear gradual, as its actions make fewer headlines. Phase III will last for at least 60-90 days. It will end when Iraqi forces are capable of controlling the city with minimal assistance from US troops. When Phase III begins, most US troops will finish off the remaining insurgents and withdraw to other cities to exploit their psychological victory there . . . but of course some will stay. During Phase III, some sort of ruling council or other political body will be established in Fallujah and preparations will be made for citizens to vote. A great deal of effort and money will be spent on reconstructing the city as well.