|Another article on the "secret war" that toppled Saddam. The article tends to vindicate Rumsfeld's approach towards re-shaping the US military and includes some material not contained in previously posted articles. Sounds like Special Forces people definitely earned their pay and are well deserving of the 20% hike in the new budget. The taking of the dams that could have flooded the Karbala gap still amazes me. |
Secret war that undermined Saddam
ALEX MASSIE IN WASHINGTON
AS THEY roared north to Baghdad, US forces knew that they had a powerful secret weapon on their side - finely-honed insults that would make Iraqi troops’ blood boil.
Through enormous loudspeakers mounted on their humvees, troops broadcast messages proclaiming that Iraqi men were impotent.
The insult had been carefully chosen to so enrage Iraqi troops that they could not resist rushing from their defensive positions to attack the American troops in open battle, with terrible consequences.
According to Newsweek, US Central Command was delighted that the carefully constructed plan "to mess with their heads" seemed to be working so well. The strategy is one of many aspects of a war that went almost un-noted - the hidden psychological and special forces operations that helped win the war.
Another operation was born out of CENTCOM’s increasing concern that Saddam might adopt a "flooded earth" policy in a desperate last act of defiance, to stop the armoured advance in its tracks.
The generals in charge of executing Operation Iraqi Freedom knew what would happen if Saddam blew up a series of dams to flood the Mesopo-tamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Covert special forces operations inside Iraq had measured the water levels in Iraq’s reservoirs to determine how much water would be unleashed. The results were disconcerting. Special forces were ordered back to secure the dams around Karbala south of Baghdad, where the bottleneck could most easily be created.
Controlling the dams was just one aspect of the covert role played by special forces troops.
While the US army and Marine Corps’ advance on Baghdad captured the headlines, much of the real work behind the invasion already had been done in secret behind enemy lines before a single tank had crossed from Kuwait into Iraq. Special forces teams, many composed either of American Arabs or Hispanics disguised to look like Arabs, moved into Iraq in the weeks and months before the invasion.
As in Afghanistan, US agents and covert operations troops used cash bribes to achieve their objectives. Greasing Iraqi palms helped persuade some oil field managers not to torch the wells. In the event, nine wells were set on fire and it was information from troops already inside Iraq, reported Newsweek, that persuaded General Tommy Franks to launch the ground war 36 hours ahead of schedule.
Intelligence sources on the ground reported that Saddam had ordered the oil fields to be set on fire.
However, Saddam was unable to enforce such an order, in part because US surveillance reduced the Iraqi army’s ability to communicate to such an extent that the enemy was reduced to relying on bicycle messengers to carry orders across the battlefield. There was no way in which the Iraqis could compete with allied signal intelligence that, for the first time in the history of warfare allowed for near-instant battlefield communication.
Covert operations could not alone win the battle, but they prepared the ground for the rapid advance on Baghdad.
They were charged with securing three air strips in the western Iraqi desert ensuring that Saddam would not be in a position to threaten Israel. In the north they liaised with Kurdish peshmerga troops so effectively that, combined with the rapid advance from the south, Gen Franks didn’t need the northern front that had been envisaged in the original war plans.
Inside the capital itself, CIA and small groups of secret military troops scouted targets, acting as pathfinders to the circling bombers overhead. When Saddam appeared to be filmed strolling the streets of his capital in an act of bravado, CIA agents were quick to identify the streets as being part of the Mansour residential district. The area was quickly flooded with agents, searching for fresh information on Saddam’s possible location.
Sure enough, that brought information suggesting that Saddam was holed up in a private house in the city. Within an hour that house had been flattened by a brace of 2,000lb bunker busting bombs. This was joined-up warfare for the 21st century.
General Richard Myers summed up the Pentagon’s new doctrine of war pithily: "Speed kills the enemy" he said.
The invasion of Iraq could not have been contemplated, planned or executed without the leading role of US, British and Australian special forces. According to Michael Vickers, a defence expert at the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: "This really has been a Special Operations war. It’s rather astounding."
Drawing on lessons learned from the war in Afghanistan, in which US special forces played a key role in co-ordinating US air strikes, mapping targets and rallying Afghan allies, the war in Iraq has seen special forces move centre stage in US military thinking.
The 10,000 "trigger-pulling" members of US special forces - just 1 per cent of the military’s manpower - punched enormous holes in Saddam’s ability to defend his country, playing a disproportionate role in the swift and decisive victory.
"Rather than using our [technological] advantages to be cautious, to be safe, we used our advantages to be quick and to be decisive," said Tom Donnelly, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.
"The idea that we could rapidly take down a country the size of California with the equivalent of three ground combat divisions and 900 aircraft is audacity to the point of foolishness, if you go by anything like traditional military planning benchmarks."
But the enduring legacy of Operation Iraqi Freedom may be that those traditional benchmarks for military success are out of date. If so, then military planners at staff colleges around the world will look at the key role special forces troops played in the liberation of Iraq.
More than any other part of the military plan, the use of special forces was Mr Rumsfeld’s pet project, say Pentagon officials. The US defence secretary repeatedly urged Gen Franks to make greater use of their capability, trusting America’s elite forces with preparing the ground for the invasion.
Mr Rumsfeld had been impressed by special forces’ adaptability in Afghanistan when, for instance, they used 21st century laser-targeting equipment to direct precision missiles from 20th century aircraft such as the 50-year-old B-52 bombers while depending on 19th century transport on horseback.
At last, Mr Rumsfeld felt, here was an under-used asset that demonstrated the speed and flexibility needed to wage war in an age of military "transformation".
The success of the military plan has emboldened Mr Rumsfeld to proceed apace with his plans to transform the US military - special forces command received a 20 per cent increase in its 2004 budget, bringing expenditure on America’s most elite troops to $6 billion.
Special forces are the new poster boys of the US military machine. They have become the US military’s fifth service.