How will the US attempt to avoid civilian casualties in Baghdad? How do you go about “taking” a building if you know that there are both enemy forces and civilians inside?
Urban Warfare is regarded as one of the most difficult ways to fight. The attackers generally face casualty rates much higher than “normal” warfare. It wears people out faster. Each situation is different than the other, and depending on what has just happened and what is expected to happen next, they may use gas to flush out people, they may use flashbangs to disorient people, or they may go in and try to be discriminate in who they shoot at. It is good to show overwhelming force to make everyone give up.
There is no one answer.
Training. A LOT of training.
US forces have been undergoing regular urban warfare training for a while, involving threat analysis (knowing to shoot or not) and entry manuevers, as well as non-leathal weapons, communication, evacuation… really, once they go in, there is nothing anyone can do but pray and rely on training.
Flashbangs replaced grenades for room entry. The US Army will likely use small robots with cameras in some situations. Knowing how the US has fought in past conflicts, their most likely tactic will be a rapid insertion via helicopter with air cover, a strike at a known position, secure the premisis, and evacuation. I just don’t see us trying to HOLD the city (see below). They’ll likely use these kinds of tactics against command posts and especially suspected chemical weapons factories (which can be as simple as a basement in a house somewhere). In such a case, they’d probably land Rangers who use the above entry tactics and clear the way for a second wave of technicians to document and neutralize the chemicals. The idea is to be in and out before the enemy can muster a large enough force to threaten.
As for a building with civilians and hostiles, I’d imagine a combination of flashbangs and non-lethal weapons that can disable the hostiles long enough for them to not be a factor, and not kill a civilian if a mistake is made. Police forces commonly use flashbangs, gas, and rubber bullets… the military has actually been researching this for years, from foams and webs to some gasses, but never found anything much more reliable.
Our most popular tactic, unfortunately, will probably be to supply rebels with weapons and some degree of training, and send them in to do it themselves. That can get very messy, compared to well trained US forces.
Whatever happened to the old fashioned concept of the siege? Why couldn’t we surround the city and starve them out? With known, dedicated chackpoints, non-combatants (or combatants) could exit the city and surrendur (and not starve).
Granted this would result in huge refugee camps outside the city, which could be a problem in itself. And it might collapse what’s left of the economy, but with no population to rule over, what’s the use of being a ruler?
Balthisar: Given that Hussein has been known to use nerve gas on his own people, trying to lay siege to an entire city full of hostages is probably not a good choice.
The Germans tried this in WWII in Russia. Didn’t work.
The Germans had Leningrad surrounded for something like 900 days and the city never fell. Condtions inside the city were brutal. Starvation was rampant and as a result reports of cannibalism not to mention that anything that walked…cats, dogs, horses, rats, etc…were eaten. The Germans were also regularly shelling and bombing the city for good measure.
The US would be crucified in the international community if it tried such a thing.
MOUT or military operations in urban terrain is extremely dangerous. Estimated casualty rates run as high as 75 to 80 percent. Next time you are walking through town just take a look around you. Look at all of the windows and hidden spaces a sniper could pick you off from. The most difficult part of urban combat is going from building to building. Once inside, things get a bit easier, but are still very difficult. Having participated in this type of training (and having my team getting their ass kicked by the trainers who were the adversary team), I really believe that the United States will try to exhaust every option availiable before entering the cities.
But remember civilian casulaties are a part of war. People will die. Thats what happens. In order to appease the international community the US will attempt to minimize them, but not at the cost of sacrificing our own soldiers lives.
Leningrad (the name at the time) wasn’t completely surrounded. Food, supplies and troops were transported across Lake Ladoga during the winter. Some civilians were also later permitted by Stalin to leave. The area under siege was also large enough that gardening in the summer provided some relief. The worst part was the first winter. Later years were bad but not nearly as awful.
Completely surrounding Baghdad and cutting off supplies would have a far greater affect on the civilian population than at Leningrad. (Despite the warmer climate.)
True but the resupply was sporadic and under attack by the Germans as well. It was just enough to allow the city to hang on but nowhere near sufficient to alleviate the horrendous conditions there. IIRC over 600,000 people died (I’ve seen figures of up to 800,000 as well…no one can be completely sure) during the siege. I think there is a monument to a mass grave of 500,000 people still in the city today. For comparison people think Hiroshima was bad…in terms of number of dead this was nearly 10x as bad.
Saddam is every bit as ruthless a prick as Stalin was and he would certainly not let his people leave Baghdad either. His military would get dibs on the food so the first to starve would be children and elderly and then the rest of the civilian population to follow.
Saddam would love it…the international community would scream at this sort of civilian carnage especially when the US is supposed to be the good guy.
I think you can forget about a siege in this war.
I’m not sure we need to take the cities. We don’t have to fight inside them. We can simply watch for any important figures, bomb them or snipe them, and wait the enemy out. No Siege, as such, but simply stop Saddam’s forces from bringing in supplies. We can also take out any Republican Guard soldier who shows his head, and hence force them to let civilians leave the city by default.
Sorry for the cut-and-paste, but I found this article from The Economist interesting:
Note: This is only about 1/10 of the article, so it should fall within fair use.
Hopefully better than we did in Mogadishu.
The experience of the U.S. forces in Somalia (as portrayed in the film Blackhawk Down) should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that a war to oust Saddam from Baghdad (or from wherever he’s hiding) will be a walk in the park.
I’m sure they’ll be better armed then Somalia, with AC-130s and such.
There is, as well as the graves themselves, which are more powerful than any monument, at Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetary. It is quite a solemn place, with rows upon rows of huge mass graves, marked with nothing except the month and year of the occupants deaths.
Two words - NIght Vision.
We can fight in complete darkness. The Iraqis can’t.
I’d suggest that we simply won’t go in for city fighting. Why fight on the enemy’s terms? We’ll sit back and drop precision ordnance and artillery fire. Refugees will be welcomed and screened, and any resistance will be obliterated.
But I don’t think we’ll get that far: Saddam isn’t exactly popular.
If it gets down to serious street fighting in Baghdad (as opposed to a few sniper/gunfire incidents), then the only way to minimize civilian casualties is for the US/UK forces to be nasty, fast and ruthless. Assuming it gets that far, we should really really try to avoid hand-to-hand urban combat, because it just plain sucks. And it’s easy to get involved in friendly fire incidents, too. But I am seriously hoping (for the sake of the humans on both sides) that if the US/UK forces get to the outskirts of Baghdad that someone will negotiate a surrender with Saddam Hussein. Or ideally, with the person carrying out the body of Saddam Hussein…
Precision munitions and artillery fire are good up to a point, but even the best, most precise weapon will occasionally go off course/drop short/overshoot or otherwise spoil someone else’s day.
How urgently do you need to take the building?
How quickly do you need to neutralize/obliterate the enemy forces?
What forces do you have available?
How many can you afford to lose?
How many civilians are there?
How much do you care about the civilians?
At the one end of the scale: If Saddam himself has just headed into the local Children’s Hospital building, because that’s where he put the button to launch the nuclear missiles, then you hit it with as big a bomb as you can get on target (ideally two or three of them), or an overwhelming ground/artillery assault as quickly as you can. Most warriors will need therapy/sanity adjustment after an attack like that, because no soldier likes killing the innocent. But sometimes there’s no choice.
Other end of the scale: The last two members of the Republican Navy have taken refuge in a waterfront cafe with a few civilian hostages. Either wait 'em out, or soften the place with some sniper fire and then offer them the chance to surrender. Or just besiege the place (cut off the power, the water, the heating) and wait.
Sure, now we have to consider everything our enemy might do that is wrong and be sure we don’t cause him to take such actions. Such reasoning is crazy, stupid and destructive. If Saddam gases his people that is Saddam’s fault and not something that we should have to plan against.
I’m pretty sure you’ll see something a little more creative than a Stalingrad siege. I think the U.S. is planning to shock the Iraqi military by taking out large chunks of it in a very short time, and then fight a very rapid war against a very disorganized enemy. And the other possibility is that the U.S. will bypass Baghdad and take Tikrit, which is Saddam’s stronghold and where the relatives of most of Saddam’s inner circle are. Many of them obey Saddam simply through fear of having their entire extended families killed if Saddam catches them. If the the U.S. can secure Tikrit and protect the families, the regime may fall.
Thanks, chula! I appreciate the assist.