- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

President Bush has approved a gambler's strategy for the opening days of war against Iraq, hoping that early, limited air strikes on Baghdad's leadership and secretly arranged surrenders will decapitate the ruling Ba'ath Party and induce a quick capitulation.
The bombing is being accompanied by a concerted effort to isolate Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from his military commanders by "frying communications," as one official described the electronic battle.
"It's what's called a decapitation operation," the official said. "It's been around forever. That's what you do. You try to cut off the head. You cause such disarray that the idea would be to have massive defections."
The official added, "We have started to close down his ability to communicate with his forces. You go after communications lines and we have all sorts of ways to doing that."
"They are playing with Saddam's mind," a military official said. The officials said the United States has delayed "shock and awe" bombing to give the Iraqi generals time to jump ship.
The military plan is matched by an active but covert warfare program. U.S. officials said special-operation troops, in the form of special-mission units, and CIA operatives are in and around Baghdad spying on the enemy, trying to spot "high value targets."
On Wednesday, the first night of the war, Tomahawk missiles and F-117 stealth aircraft attacked a site thought to house Saddam, his sons and other top leaders. Saddam is believed to be alive.
Tomahawk missiles struck downtown Baghdad yesterday. The targets: the offices of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and, according to Iraqi officials, the homes of Saddam's family members, including sons Qusai and Uday.
The leadership strikes are coupled with a far-reaching intelligence and psychological warfare operation to convince Iraqi generals to surrender.
"We see evidence of military personnel; some have already surrendered in Kuwait," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
"We are in communication with still more people who are officials of the military at various levels the regular army, the Republican Guard, the Special Republican Guard, who are increasingly aware that it's going to happen, he's going to be gone."
By killing Saddam and his leaders and by arranging surrenders, Gen. Tommy Franks, the overall coalition commander based in Qatar, and Mr. Rumsfeld hope their plan will make for a quick war, fewer casualties and victory.
The strategy is risky because Gen. Franks has assembled a total invasion force that is about half the ground, air and sea armada used in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when the objective was to liberate Kuwait, not conquer Baghdad.
"It … better work," said retired Army Col. Ken Allard, a military analyst. "We do not have the overwhelming ground force we had in 1991. We are clearly taking a degree of risks here. We are light on the ground. They've got an evolving strategy here that is part Afghanistan, part getting surrenders and part getting them to defect."
The Afghanistan model involves using indigenous rebels to attack the Iraqi military, with air strikes augmenting the effort.
The U.S. military's growing reliance on "smart" munitions enables war planners to pencil in fewer heavy ground troops.
There is one heavy Army division on the scene, the 3rd Infantry Division, which is poised to spearhead the march toward Baghdad. It is supported by smaller armored regiments, and two light infantry divisions, the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions.
The 4th Infantry Division was planned as the northern front invader, but Turkey did not permit basing rights. The 4th Division's soldiers remain at Fort Hood, Texas. The Pentagon alerted the 1st Cavalry and 1st Armored divisions, but there are no reports that they are moving toward the Persian Gulf.
Minutes after the first bombs fell on Baghdad, U.S. forces began major ground action in America's other battleground Afghanistan. About 1,000 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division attacked fighters suspected of being members of the terror network al Qaeda and the ousted hard-line Taliban regime.
"Bush is dispelling the notion that we cannot conduct the war in Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time," the U.S. official said. "They are two very different types of conflicts."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide