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News ::
THE IRAQ WAR - MARCH 22, 2003 SUMMARY. (english)
23 Mar 2003
Summary of events, IRAQ War, March 22, 2003.
The IRAQ war - March 22, 2002.

Gen. Franks expressed his concern with the mounting casualties and the stubborn Iraqi resistance. "We've just spent three days trying to capture one small town, so we can only guess what awaits us in Baghdad!"

March 22, 2002, 0800hrs MSK (GMT +3), Moscow - Information received during the last night is very contradictory. During all day and night fighting continued around Basra, Al-Nasiriya, and on the Faw (Fao) peninsula. Despite of numerous reports by the American and British command about the capture of Umm Qasr the coalition forces have so far failed to establish full control over this small borderline town. Exchange of fire in the city is continuing. Elements of the [Iraqi] 45-th Infantry Brigade, which is defending the town, are surrounded but continue to resist and are trying to break out toward Basra.

According to intelligence reports, at Umm Qasr American and British forces have sustained 10 killed and around 40 wounded soldiers and officers. Additionally, the Iraqis have destroyed up to 8 British and US armored personnel carriers.

"Iraqi resistance turned out to be far more determined than we've expected," the British and US commanders are reporting. - "They are surrounded but continue fighting even after losing much of their heavy equipment. Often we could only advance after completely destroying them with artillery and aviation."

So far there was no success in trying to clarify the reports about the capture or surrender of the 51st Infantry Division. According to intercepted radio communications, this division was fighting as a part of the 3rd Army Corp (Al-Nasiriya). It's brigades took up defensive positions along the northwestern approaches to Basra and participated in combat since the first day of fighting, which makes their voluntary surrender unlikely. Analysts believe that the anglo-american coalition reports refer to a surrender by a capture of one of the destroyed units or to a successful operation by their special forces.

Analysis of the video footage of the captured Iraqis, distributed by the coalition press-service, makes it difficult to accept the Iraqi army's "moral breakdown" story advertised by the Americans. Most of the captives retain their dignity and show no fear or ingratiation characteristic of demoralized enemy. In addition to that, Americans did not come up with a single video recording of destroyed or abandoned combat vehicles or any other equipment, nor did they provide any interviews with the captured Iraqis.

The US forces have halted their advance into Iraq and are now actively engaged in reconnaissance along the directions of Al-Nasiriya, An-Najaf and Al-Ammara. However, the main efforts of the coalition are being concentrated around the approaches to Basra. It is expected that by tomorrow they will build up a strike force to storm the city. Most major events of the upcoming several days will be unfolding in this region. Radio intercepts show that up to 25,000 British and American troops are already in the Basra region. The city is under a constant artillery and aviation bombardment.

During the past night a fuel supply convoy of the US 3rd Infantry Division was attacked by Iraqi special forces. Up to 7 fuel trucks have been lost in the attack. Three US soldiers were killed and nine wounded. Another three US soldiers are considered MIA and are believed to have been captured by the Iraqis.

As was expected, after realizing the failure of the coup against Hussein the US have resorted to intensive bombing of Baghdad beginning on the evening of March 21st. Just during that night Baghdad was attacked with 500 cruise missiles and over 1,000 aviation bombs. The city is engulfed by numerous fires.

Additionally, more than 20 other Iraqi cities were also bombed. More than 1,000 cruise missiles were launched against various targets and over 3,000 bombs were dropped. At the moment it is difficult to estimate the effectiveness of these strikes. However, judging by the high activity levels of Iraqi radio transmitters, the US was unable to disrupt the control of the Iraqi army.

Russian radio intercept units are certain that at least one coalition combat plane was shot down in these air raids.

Our sources believe that the high-intensity air strikes will continue for another 24 hours and after that the coalition will be forced to scale down the attacks to conduct additional reconnaissance and to regroup its forces.

A radio intercept made last night at approximately 4:40 am indicated that two British helicopters were shot down by a "Strela" SAM system after flying into a SAM trap. It is believed that the two SAR helicopters were to retrieve the pilot of the combat plane downed during the earlier air strike. The number of dead and wounded is still being established. So far the coalition command did not report these losses. (1)

The coalition commander Gen. Tommy Franks demanded from the Air Force a maximum possible increase in the close air support of the ground forces. During a "radio-bridge" with the commanders of all units Gen. Franks expressed his concern with the mounting casualties and the stubborn Iraqi resistance. "We've just spent three days trying to capture one small town, so we can only guess what awaits us in Baghdad!" - angrily said the commander and demanded better aviation support to soften up the defending Iraqi forces ahead of the advancing coalition units.

For the past day the coalition losses ar up to 30 killed and around 40 wounded. Ten coalition armored vehicles were destroyed my land mines. At least two armored vehicles were destroyed by anti-tank weapons.

Iraqi losses are estimated in the range of 250-300 killed and up to 500 wounded. So far it is not possible to determine the damage from the night bombing raids. However, more than 500 people have been taken to hospitals in Baghdad - all of them were civilians.

Update:

While this article was translated the US Navy has confirmed that two British Sea Knight helicopters of the Royal Navy have crashed killing all onboard - 6 Britons and 1 American - a US Navy officer. The helicopters crashed at around 4:30 am. The official explanation for the loss was that the two helicopters crashed into each other while taking-off from a ship. It is interesting to note that during more than 25 years in British service there wasn't a single collision between the Sea Knights. The Royal Navy operates more than 300 Sea Knights and all helicopter pilots adhere to strict sets of rules during take-offs and landings from ships; rules that are designed to help pilots to avoid this type of collisions.

Additional information about the situation in the primary combat areas in southern Iraq became available by 1300hrs (Moscow time, GMT +3). The US command reports about the supposed surrender of the entire Iraqi 51st Infantry Division turned out to be a complete fabrication. According to our sources the 51st Division continues to fight on the approaches to Basra and we can only talk about individual cases of Iraqi soldiers being captured in combat.

Elements of the US 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Marine Infantry Division ended up in an exceptionally difficult situation. While attempting to encircle Basra from the north and to block An-Nasiriya elements the 3rd and 1st infantry divisions found themselves wedged between the defending Iraqi forces. The Iraqi command used this situation and delivered a decisive counterattack with up to 80 tanks in the open flank of the US forces, slicing through their combat orders. As the result of this counterattack these US units are now at risk of being separated from the main coalition forces and being surrounded.

By 1100hrs MSK Iraqi units advanced into the US attack front by 10-15 kilometers and Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the coalition forces, ordered his troops to switch entirely to defensive operations. At the same time he issued orders to the forward-deployed coalition tank units to halt their reconnaissance operations in the directions of Es-Samaba and An-Najaf and to move immediately to support the defending US forces. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that a part of the coalition tanks are currently disabled due to the lack of fuel and are awaiting the arrival of fuel convoys. Thus the tanks are able to gradually rejoin combat in small numbers as the fuel becomes available.

Currently the US and the Iraqi tank forces are engaged in mobile head-on combat approximately 70-90 kilometers to the south of An-Nasiriya. Combat orders have been received by the carrier borne aviation in the Persian Gulf, which until now did not take part in this battle. At the same time orders were issued to all available coalition strike aircraft in Qatar to scramble in support of the defending coalition forces.

Intercepted radio communications indicate that during the morning period of March 22 the US forces lost 10-15 tanks destroyed or disabled and up to 30 other armored vehicles. Medevac helicopters flew more than 30 search-and-rescue missions, which suggests heavy coalition losses.

Our sources report that during the early morning hours in southwestern Iraq in the vicinity of Akashat the Iraqi forces have engaged and surrounded a tactical paratroop unit of the 101st Airborne Division. Some of the surrounded paratroopers were able to break out into the desert, where they request air support and finally lost their Iraqi pursuers. However, up to 30 US troops were killed or captured in this engagement. Additionally, [Russian] radio intercept units report that one the US attack helicopters providing close air support was shot down.

The top US military command is planning to enhance the coalition command. During the Joint Chief of Staff meeting its Chairman Gen. Richard Mayers expressed strong criticism of the actions by the coalition commander Gen. Franks and proposed to strengthen his headquarters with several other senior military commanders. Gen. Franks is required to do everything he can to change the current situation on the front. Analysts believe that, if during the next 3-5 days Gen. Franks fails to achieve any significant results, than it is entirely possible that he will be replaced as the commander of the coalition forces.

Update: The coalition forces were able to capture a bridge in the suburbs of Nasiriya. Their control of the Basra airport is tentative at best as large numbers of Iraqi forces continue to resist with heavy artillery and machine gun fire. Around Basra the coalition forces have advanced at most by 1.5 kilometers. Gen. Franks has announced a change in plans: the coalition forces are no longer set on capturing Basra so not to "create military confrontations in that city." The coalition forces still do not control Umm Qasr and appear to be losing territory.
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