CHESTER HAS MOVED!: Shaping the Battlefield

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Shaping the Battlefield

[quick note: don't be surprised if the blog changes in appearance once or twice over the next couple of days. I will be making a few minor template changes. - Chester] Folks, many of the psychological aspects of the battle are starting to become clear. Let's see what we end up with when we try to calculate the overall effect on the enemy that the following combination of military and political events will have: 1. Bush has won re-election in the US with a clear victory that is unchallenged. This shows unity in the American populace. 2. Four Arab-language media outlets have been forced from Fallujah by the insurgents for refusing to display stock footage of civilian casualties. This is a huge plus for us, especially when we learn that Iraqi journalists are being embedded with US forces. Remember how well embedding worked for us during the invasion? No reason it won't work again in swaying Iraqi public opinion. Note that the article states that Al-Jazeera declined to embed a reporter. If the battle goes well for the US, and Iraqis and other Arabs watch it go well on their TVs, but Al-Jazeera reports negatively, the US can publicize AJ's "no thanks" to being included to AJ's detriment. Another note: I bet the US has some very solid signals intelligence, or other human intelligence that many of the fighers in Fallujah are not Iraqi. Being able to show them on TV as the US assaults will be a huge plus for Allawi. I don't think he would take this risk if he didn't know for sure. 3. There is a British report that the Black Watch will be patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah. The article states that the Brits are based in Camp Dogwood. If that's the case, then the idea that they are patrolling the outskirts of Fallujah is spin, pure and simple. Camp Dogwood is a good 50 miles as the crow flies from Fallujah. The Brits are serving as a blocking force, and are going to be watching one of the high-speed avenues of approach running north-south from Baghdad to Iskandriyah (I can't find the name of this highway at the moment) to clean up any fleeing insurgents. I bet the US will leave them one avenue of escape. This is because: a) it will definitely be very bloody if all the jihadi's have nowhere to go and fight to the finish in the city, b) if they flee, we can attrit them from the air very effectively (a highway is a relatively open battlespace), and c) the British, maybe coupled with US Army units, will be in a position to bat cleanup as the bad guys move toward them. If I wanted them to have an escape route, I would make it to the east, and not to the west. Ramadi is in the west and we don't need fleeing forces regrouping there, or stumbling into the rear of 5th Marines. Whether the spin of "outskirts of Fallujah" is generated by the British press to make good headlines or whether it is generated by the US/British military to emphasize an important role for the Brits is unclear. But the effect is the same: to someone on the other side hearing news reports, it looks like not only the Americans, but also the Brits are involved in the campaign, and are very unified. So to sum up, if I am Joe Insurgent in Fallujah, and have news access (probably via shortwave radio), I know that: -Bush has won a resounding victory -the British are united behind him and will participate in the attack against me -the Arab media will mainly be embedded with the Americans, and will give accurate stories of their prowess, not the dreck I feed them All of these things have a psychological effect on the enemy combatants. If there is any chance at all for a peace settlement, the US' blatant unity behind the president will further deepen existing discord between the sheiks and the foreign fighters. I would put all of these events, together with the unrelenting airstrikes, under the battle phase of "shaping the battlefield," wherein we have not yet committed ground troops, but it's the next step, and we are doing all possible right down to the wire to make them successful. Look for more airstrikes tonight, and if they begin to increase in frequency, as they did yesterday (from more or less one a day to two a day) then we'll know the assault phase is getting closer. In US doctrine, phases must have clearly defined begin and end points. These can be either time-driven or event driven. I think that since the US election is over, the shift of phases from shaping the battlefield to beginning to kick down doors will be event-driven: like a certain unit in place and ready to perform a certain activity, or a certain enemy target successfully attrited by air. [Note: thanks to "cjr" in the comments for pointing out the CentCom press releases.] [Note: a reader asked in the comments section what "devildog" refers to. It's translation of German: "teufelhunden." See here.] [Note: Thanks to alert reader "schutzhund" for pointing me to this story.]


Blogger Doug Santo said...

I am new to your site. I was directed to you from Belmont Club. I enjoy your analysis and commentary. It is much better than anything available from the MSM.

I continue to be flabergasted by the MSM's negative reporting on US and coalition military activities in Iraq. I am a complete novice in terms of military affairs, but by observation and common sense I am convinced that our military is doing an excellent job and will achieve a signal victory in Fallujah. Notwithstanding MSM reports, which often paint a rosy picture for the terrorists, I would not want to be an insurgent/terrorist in Fallujah right about now. These gentlemen are dead.

I watched a reporter from MSNBC this morning reporting about Iraqi and international criticism of our anticipated use of force in Fallujah. The reporter implied that the use of force was in effect a failure. A failure because we were not able to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the isurgents/terrorists. Apparently this reporter is not aware of the recent history of the Fallujah based insurgency. This is an example for me of the biased, agenda-driven reporting available to most Americans. Keep up the good work. I will return often.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

November 4, 2004 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger cjr said...

A couple of comments:
1. Another important psycological (and material) aspect of this attack will be the paticipation of new Iraqi Army units. The 10th SF group may be going to Iraq not to support the Marines, but to support these Iraqi army units in this attack.
2. I'd like to speculate that the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment will participate. They just left for Iraq and are scheduled to stay only 4 months. Its suspicious that I have been unable to find any reference to where in Iraq they are going. Also, since they are the Army's training OPFOR, this would be an excellent opportunity for them to get experiance in what may become a textbook operation. Very useful when they train army units in the future.

November 4, 2004 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger cjr said...

Another speculation: the model for this operation was the British seige of Basrah during OIF: a long period of intel gathering, followed by indirect attacks(Air/artillery), snipers and finally a very fast, overwhelming attack with ground troops. This model was refined and practiced on a smaller scale in Sammarra in Sept.
If true, then the ground attack phase may only last a matter of a few days, not weeks.
The alternative model is the Najaf operation in Aug(weeks of ground fighting). Since this model was not used in Sammara, I'm guessing it is not considered as successful as the Basrah model.
Does anyone know of any detailed after action reports of the Basrah or the Najaf operation?

November 4, 2004 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger cjr said...

Concerning British participation. If Basrah is the model for the attack, the British may have some presents as advisors. Or they could be providing a few soldier with specific valuable skills, like snipers.

November 4, 2004 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger schutzhund said...


BAGHDAD, IRAQ - Quds Arab-language news wire service in recent days has
reported that four Arab-language media outlets have been forced from the
city of Fallujah by Anti-Iraqi Forces.

According to Quds, Al-Arabiya, Middle East Broadcasting Company,
Lebanese Broadcasting Company and Al-Iraqiyah television were forced
from Fallujah by Anti-Iraqi Forces because they were accused of
providing biased coverage to Coalition forces by refusing to air
insurgent stock footage of alleged civilian casualties. In discussions
with Coalition officials, reporters from both Al Arabiya and MBC
acknowledged threats to correspondents and indicated that some
correspondents had withdrawn from Fallujah for their own safety and were
reporting via phone from outside the city.

Saturday, seven people were killed and 19 wounded when a car bomb
exploded outside the Baghdad offices of Al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based TV
network. A web post claimed responsibility for the bombing on the
Al-Izah bulletin board ( in the name of the '1920
Revolution Brigades', and another post to the Arab Dialogue Forum
( claimed the attack on behalf of the Jihad
Martyrs Companies in Iraq.

Shootings, abductions and other acts of intimidation by Iraqi insurgents
have made it difficult for journalists to operate and report freely.

Joe Kane
Chief Journalist, U.S. Navy

November 4, 2004 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger cjr said...

Another speculation: in order maximize their advantage with night vision equipment, the Marines may have planned to start operations during a new moon. This will occur early next week.

November 4, 2004 at 12:50 PM  
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