Tuesday, November 23, 2004

LA Times Hits the Most Important Story of Fallujah 
You know good things are happening when freshly blooded troops get to bragging.

And things are even better when those freshly blooded troops are Iraqis.

Iraqi troops interviewed here displayed great pride about their part in the operation, eagerly recounting their exploits.

Staff Sgt. Adel Ahmed led a reporter to a spot outside a yellow schoolhouse in central Fallouja. There, he said, his troops had finished off a fighter carrying Syrian identification. The Iraqis pointed to a protruding mound of earth behind the school where, they said, the Syrian was buried.

"We are fighting to save our Iraq from foreigners and terrorists," Ahmed declared.

Impressively, there were no mass defections of Iraqi troops during the fight for Fallujah. The newspaper article casts it improperly, but Iraqi troops took casualties at a rate nearly equal to the Marines...and their wounded were actually more likely than the Marines to stay in the fight. Look at this amazing statistic:

More than 90% of the Iraqi wounded returned to the battlefield compared with fewer than one-third of injured U.S. troops.

It's probably partly a function of relatively poor casevac. Iraqi wounded can't leave the battlefield, so they HAVE to stay in the fight. That, and possibly relatively unsophisticated medical care meant that Iraqi wounded were more likely to die of their wounds than Americans, and so don't count against the wounded totals.

Very commendable, as Stonewall Jackson would say. Very commendable.

But don't discount the fact that these peshmerga-laced units have some raw guts of their own.

One of the three battalions attacked independently, which is great news -- as I had written before, it's one thing to see Iraqi squads and platoons conduct a raid on a mosque. But now we're seeing Battalion level operations in the Iraqi National Guard. Which means that we have the rudiments of a trained battle staff at work. The leap is one of two orders of magnitude.

Yes, they required a lot of help from American advisors. But they would anyway, just to coordinate with American arms. At a minimum, even a seasoned professional force would require a liberal smattering of American forward observers and RTOs to synch up their operations with ours, to call in American close air support and artillery where neccessary, and to monitor the battle in the American sector.

That one battalion was able to function independently is excellent news indeed. The other two battalions will be itching to operate more independently as well, just as soon as they hear their buddies start to brag.

It should also be noted that the Iraqi battalion didn't draw a cotton candy mission: they were responsible for assaulting the Old Jolan neighborhood--one of Fallujah's toughest.

Iraq should be proud of their Guard. They have some good men.

Splash, out


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