Relying on harassing tactics never exhibited during the 1991
Gulf War, the Iraqi military has inflicted heavy damage this week on two of the
US Army's most fiercesome weapons, the Abrams tank and the Apache Longbow
helicopter gunship(Xinhua photo)...
Iraqis' harassing tactics surprise allies
By Vernon Loeb & Jonathan Weisman
WASHINGTON: Relying on harassing tactics never exhibited during the 1991 Gulf
War, the Iraqi military has inflicted heavy damage this week on two of the US
Army's most fiercesome weapons , the Abrams tank and the Apache Longbow
Defence officials and analysts were quick to note that no US troops had been
killed in Iraqi attacks that badly damaged about 30 Apache Longbows and disabled
two Abrams tanks and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Hundreds of Iraqis died and
dozens of Iraqi armoured vehicles were destroyed in the process, they noted.
But they were nonetheless impressed by the Iraqis' adaptive tactics and their
willingness to fight, both of which might have been underestimated by some in
the Pentagon on the basis of the Iraqis' performance 12 years ago, when their
armour formations were destroyed in the open desert and tens of thousands of
"This is not a stupid force," said Anthony Cordesman, a former
Pentagon official at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who is
an expert on the Iraqi military. "It's been studying US, Russian, Chinese
and Yugoslavian literature on asymmetric warfare for 12 years. The elite units
have fought well in the past. And this is not a group of cowards."
The Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles were disabled on Tuesday after
Iraqi soldiers repeatedly fired upon the 7th Cavalry Regiment's 500 vehicle
convoy moving north as part of the 3rd Infantry Division's advance on Baghdad.
Taking advantage of sandstorms that grounded Apache attack helicopters that
would otherwise have provided air cover for the convoy, Iraqi forces believed to
be a Republican Guard commando battalion repeatedly attacked with mortars,
rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms fire. Some engagements
were hit and run. Some involved troops dug in several hundred yards on either
side of the road.
During a climactic encounter on Tuesday, the convoy was attacked by hundreds of
soldiers. US forces called in air strikes and counterattacked and killed most of
the attackers. But when the smoke cleared, two Abrams tanks - virtually
impregnable 70- ton behemoths - had been shot in their soft spot, a rear grill
covering the engine. The tanks' four-man crews escaped in both cases, a
testament to an Abrams' design that puts a premium on protecting crew members.
"A lot of this is just good war fighting," said one retired Army
colonel. "But we haven't encountered it for a long time, and we didn't
expect it from the Iraqis. And as they have success, it breeds success."
Some Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that this marked the first time Abrams
tanks had been destroyed on the battlefield. An Army official disputed that,
saying the tanks "were not blown to bits, they were rendered immobile.
They're going to be evacuated, and repaired."
On the battlefield, it was not immediately clear what kind of weapon the Iraqis
used to knock out the tanks. But a senior defence official said on Wednesday
that it was a French-made Coronet anti-tank missile.
As the Iraqis demonstrate tactical flexibility and tenacity on the battlefield,
foreign technology has become an increasing concern for US commanders. According
to the Bush administration, the Iraqis have acquired night-vision goggles,
anti-tank missiles and Global Positioning System jammers this year from three
In attacking a formation of about 40 Apache Longbows on Monday, the Iraqis
staged a classic helicopter ambush first perfected by the North Vietnamese in
the 1960s. As the lethal, tank-killing aircraft approached on a mission to
destroy the Medina Division's dispersed armour, troops dispersed throughout a
palm-lined residential area opened fire will anti-aircraft guns,
rocket-propelled grenades and a wall of fire from rifles and other small arms.
While the Longbow is equipped with a $3 million millimetre- wave radar that can
target tanks and air defences on the battlefield from five miles away, the $25
million aircraft are most vulnerable to troops who pop out from behind an
obstruction as the helicopters are flying low overhead and open fire.
The Iraqi fire was so intense the Apaches had to break off their mission and
return to base. With about 30 helicopters heavily damaged, only one went down in
enemy territory. Its two- man crew was unharmed and taken prisoner.
"Iraqi tactics for using (anti-aircraft) guns and short-range defences
reflect a good adaptation of Soviet methods," Cordesman said. "They
are evidently using forward spotters to alert troops to oncoming helicopters,
and possibly low flyers like the A-10.
The Iraqi (anti-aircraft) guns and other automatic weapons then send up a sudden
curtain of fire from concealed positions as the helicopters flies into or over
the position."-Dawn/The LAT-WP News Service (c) The Washington Post.
How can we manifest peace on
earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both
sexes) in our vision of Peace?
The WorldPeace Banner
To order a WorldPeace Insignia lapel pin, go to: Order
To the John WorldPeace Galleries Page
To the WorldPeace Peace Page