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Monday, August 20, 2007

War - Iraq, Look Carefully

I had a point to make but was too tired to do it in last night's post. And before I start, I want to say I miss Steve Gilliard terribly now, because he would have done this in far fewer words, with greater incisiveness and less wambling. Observe the map above. al-Anbar province, to the west of Baghdad, has been the site of many difficult battles. al-Anbar borders on Jordan, which would not welcome our troops, assuming they could successfully traverse this hostile territory in an attempt to withdraw from the charnel house that is now Baghdad.

Diyala province, to the east of Baghdad, capital Baquba, is "a source of problems" according to General Betrayus. It borders Iran, which also would not accept a retreat of the U.S. military, should our troops withdraw in that direction. Assuming they survived the active insurgency in that province, they would face a much larger army in Iran.

Salahuddin province, immediately north of Baghdad, is the site of the deadliest insurgent activity of late - a record sure to be broken, and soon. Assuming U.S. troops tried to withdraw north, they would have to traverse this province, which is largely Turkomen, and several other hostile provinces to reach Turkey - which is highly unlikely to offer sanctuary.

Can they withdraw southwards? Babil province, immediately south of Baghdad, is apparently currently under the control of an Iraqi brigade. However, note that the gunmen who staged a daring raid and kidnapped several American military personnel, apparently fled into Babil province when pursued, according to the International Herald Tribune.
Mr. Khazaali said the identities of the gunmen were unknown. Other Iraqi officials said the clues pointed to Sunni groups based in Elbu Alwan, a Sunni stronghold about 25 miles north of Karbala in Babil Province. Four of the vehicles were found there early Sunday morning, the police said.
Further southwest, Karbala province appears to be relatively peaceful, though unable to defend itself from violence spilling over from the nearby al-Anbar province. Further south, Qadisiya province is reeling from attacks by Shia factions. In Dhi Qar province, the Italian military has formally handed off responsibility for security to the Iraqi army as of September last year. Sometime around then, responsibility for security in Muthanna province, south of Dhi Qar, was handed off to the Iraqi army. This August, the governor of the province was killed.

To the west, Najaf province is relatively peaceful and controlled by Iraqi security forces. If the troops can cross safely, they can get to Saudi Arabia and withdraw from there. However, Najaf was also the site, in January of this year, of some mysterious warlike activity that indicates the potential for powerful resistance. I don't entirely trust this particular story, but have to leave for work soon. I'll research it further tonight.

Then it's down through Basra province and into Kuwait and home free, right? Not quite, apparently. You see, the British are urging an immediate withdrawal from Basrah. And with good reason, apparently.
Two generals told The Independent on Sunday last week that the military advice given to the Prime Minister was, "We've done what we can in the south [of Iraq]". Commanders want to hand over Basra Palace – where 500 British troops are subjected to up to 60 rocket and mortar strikes a day, and resupply convoys have been described as "nightly suicide missions" – by the end of August. The withdrawal of 500 soldiers has already been announced by the Government. The Army is drawing up plans to "reposture" the 5,000 that will be left at Basra airport, and aims to bring the bulk of them home in the next few months.


Further ahead, the US is concerned over the security of its vital supply line from Kuwait, with some American commanders saying that if the British withdraw, American troops will have to be sent south to replace them. As the hub of Iraq's oil industry, Basra is also a tempting prize for the Shia militias battling each other for control.

There are fears that the bloody power struggle in Basra will escalate sharply if and when British troops depart, but commanders point out that up to 90 per cent of the violence is directed against their forces. They are understood to believe it was never the role of occupation troops to intervene in a "turf war" among factions from the same community, all of which have links to the government coalition in Baghdad.
Baghdad is a city at the confluence of two large rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Such a city would be hard to evacuate in a war, because withdrawal would have to take place via bridges over water. All the insurgents have to do is cut enough of the bridges to trap our military like rats.

According to Al-Jazeera, these bridges have been destroyed:
  • old Diyala bridge
  • new Diyala bridge
  • Sarafiya bridge
Hang on to your hats, boys and girls, the fit's about to hit the shan.

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At 1:50 AM, Blogger Fixer said...

Good post and quite true. The major ground route would be through Kuwait but, as you say, with the Brits gone, well ...

Al-Anbar is probably the next best bet, to Saudi and then home but then again, there are a lot of places between Baghdad and Saudi for them to harass us as we leave.

Heavy airlift might be the only way to go, everybody to head to Baghdad airport for a Saigon-style bug out. That would get really ugly.

It's a bleedin' mess all around and no good way out.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Thanks for coming by. It's making me crazy thinking about what is going to happen. I'm old enough to remember Vietnam and the 'copters with their long strings of desperate hangers-on. If I'm not mistaken, the airport is not that close to the Green Zone. They should evacuate all non-military personnel now, not wait till more troops have to be spent just to escort them safely to haven.


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