According to William Knarr and Major Robert Castro’s Institute for Defense Analysis paper: The Battle of Fallujah, Al Fajr-the Myth-buster, the Sunni town, Fallujah, has approximately 259,000 individuals and lies 40 miles in the west of Baghdad. Fallujah is a major stop along the Syrian and Jordan to the Iraqi capital and has ever challenged authority throughout its existence. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it revolted against the Ottomans, in 1920 against the British Mandate and also intimidating Saddam Hussein; thus it is also called the untamable or renegade city. During Iraq’s invasion in 2003, Fallujah was not of concern; the U.S only wanted a way of dethroning Saddam Hussein and disposing of the Weapons of Mass Destruction. The U.S President ordered all the Iraqi operations to end by May 1st, yet the inhabitants of Fallujah never welcomed that due to the critical activities in the town.
The coalition deemed they emerged victoriously and started the renovation process after the war and never prepared for anything else. Various reports show that Fallujah had initially been friendly to the Coalition when its army entered Iraq in March 2003 before quickly changing, that’s according to Mr. Saif Rahman. On the 28th of April 2003, the coalition army attacked a group of demonstrators and killing many individuals in response to the small antagonistic assaults. With that led to the birth of insurgency that had a diverse background; foreign fighters, Baath Party members, former military members, and the extremist associations like Al-Qaeda. They had a cohesive objective of undermining the efforts of the coalition forces and create violence in the nation. Fallujah’s proximity to the capital made it prime for the insurgents to develop command and control locations facilitating them to interrupt the foundation and legality of the new Iraqi regime
Setting the Stage
The U.S stated Iraqi’s strategic objectives with three phases as short, medium, and long term. According to President Bush, short time is creating consistent progress in fighting terrorism, tackling political milestones, crafting democratic organizations, and setting up defense army. When it comes to the medium term, Iraq is in the frontline fighting terrorists and securing itself with an entirely legitimate regime in place and is on the course of achieving an economic potential. Longer term, Iraq is united, peaceful, secure, and fully incorporated into the global society and contributes to the worldwide fight against terrorism. Fallujah would predominantly be among the areas of interest in Iraqis campaign as its operational milieu never existed following the conflict. The city never had a local regime; law enforcement lacked the right tools, the profit of the local economy came from farming and unlawful dealings, sectarian cruelty confounded the society, and the control of the information domain was by the insurgents. The Multinational Corp Iraq (MNC-I) military planners started the operational level arrangement to reconstruct and stabilize Iraq.
The marines were familiar with Fallujah given that they had assaulted in the spring of 2004 to drive out the insurgents and surrender the city to Fallujah Brigade following the demise of four contractors that attracted the attention of the world. The Fallujah Brigade lost the first battle as they unmarked their post taking with them all the equipment thus leaving the insurgents securing the city, and would then prepare to execute another operation known as Operation New Dawn.
Major Gen. Richard Natonski during his interview claimed that the mission of the 1st MARDIV was to assault and obliterates the anti-Iraqi army in Fallujah to institute the ultimate local power. The commander planned to set the city as an insurgent asylum, establish provisions for the city’s local authority, and sustain the MNF-I’s endeavor to safeguard the moves to Baghdad. The operation was to initiate the stipulation s for the January 2005 elections, and at the tactical level, Operation New Dawn comprised of five stages: Preparation and Shaping, Enhanced Shaping, Decisive Offensive Operations, Transition, and Transfer of Control.
According to Kennedy Hickman in “Iraq war: The Second Battle of Fallujah”, the conflict transpired on 7-16 of November 2018, and the U.S claimed that the war was over by the 16th of November although there were still random conflicts in the city. The full clearance of Fallujah was in December, and the primary antagonists were the U.S-led Coalition comprising of the U.S Marines and Soldiers, and the Al-Qaeda insurgent forces of about 15,000 soldiers. Besides, within the coalition were also the British soldiers, and during the operation, the number incorporated the support aspects that never participated directly in the battle. Indeed, the most massive army in the coalition was the Marines as according to the estimates, the insurgents had a force of about 4,000-5,000 individuals.
Major General Richard F. Nantonski was the commander of the operation, and, Colonel Mike Shupp his subordinate commander for RCT-1, and Colonel Craig Tucker as the RCT-7, and the coalition army met on the city for the final preparation. According to AL FAJR: A Study in Army and Marine Corps Joint Operations, by Matt Matthews, the constituents of the significant combat apparatus were RCT-1 and RCT-7 which attacked the city from the north. In the west, TF2-7 always led the way for RCT-1 whereas TF2-2 assaulted south to the eastern side with RCT-7’s two Marine battalions. Come November 7th; the division started using the leaflet drops and a loudspeaker to push the civilian residents to vacate before the outbreak of the operation. Meanwhile, 2/1 CAV Blackjack Brigade settled in the south for the establishment of the defense positions while the rest of the forces moved into their particular assault positions.
When the coalition forces were still preparing, the opponent continued to secure Fallujah. Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi commanded the insurgent, whereby Abdullah al-Janabi was the principal Fallujah’s indigenous leader and urged the inhabitants to fight the enemy. Conversely, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had the familiarity and knowledge achieved from Afghanistan’s 2000s battles. Zarqawi’s network called Al-Qaeda in Iran was adept in IED’s and hit and run tactics among other forms of alternative strategies, and the insurgents in Fallujah were roughly 4,000 before the procedure.
The insurgents attacked from the mosques, schools, and residential areas as they were sensitive sites for the assault, and the insurgents would use mosques as the Command and Control centers, triage, and reserves. They pre-positioned water, ammunition, and weapons all over the city to avoid the inconveniences once the war began, and they employed the strategic plans, for instance, small-integrated cell networks in a nonlinear defense. When it comes to the size, it ranged from two personnel to a squad and depended on the type of assault.
The majority of the current experts believe that the U.S forces are by far the most advanced globally, and during planning, the Division expected nothing but a quick battle with minimal casualties and destruction to infrastructure. The Marines came to realize that they lacked the right armor and personnel as the majority of their forces were light infantry on foot for conducting operations, and on recognizing the inconvenience, requested for reinforcement. In the New Dawn: The Battle for Fallujah, Richard Lowry states that General Nantonski called for assistance from General Sattler to put the Marines at an advantage as concerns the power and speed of attacks while minimizing casualties. The Marines received direct support from the Air Force, Special Operations, Army Aviation, and Field Artillery.
On the contrary, the opponent had the home advantage and would emplace the HESCO barriers on the streets, booby trap homes, daisy chain IEDs, and utilize VBIEDS. They would also manage the Information Operations sphere stressing the defeat of the coalition. As regards equipment and personnel, the enemy was at a disadvantage given that most of the stuff were old and inferior, for example, they had AK-47 rifles, RPK and PKM machine guns that lacked advanced sights. Additionally, they also never had the night vision goggles both for the personnel and paraphernalia.
The observations and fields of fire, an avenue approach, crucial and decisive terrain, obstacles, and cover and concealment (OAKOC) were the primary considerations when it came to choosing the territory. Besides, the commanders also considered weather as it affects the systems the forces utilize. The city of Fallujah never provided much observation, like many capitals, it had various structures of the same height, and in case of a comprehensive view, one would have to go to the rooftops of the tall buildings. Making it more complicated were the proximity of structures that hindered the fields of fire.
Highway 10 of about two miles and consisting of six lanes joins the east and west of Fallujah, and the secondary streets were much narrower and made it hard for the movement of the armored vehicles. Also, the town has two bridges, the North and South that connect it to the Peninsula, and the insurgents put up blockades on the roads in an endeavor to prohibit the coalition army from entering through one area.
Given that Fallujah was a developed town, it never had any natural obstacles; however, either the city’s layout or emplacing of objects by the insurgents made it an obstacle. The insurgents used IED’s, HESCO barrier blockades, and tires on the streets among others, to create a dilemma for the coalition.
In the book New Dawn: The Battle for Fallujah, Richard Lowry states that the terrain in the city consisted majorly of the hospital, bridges, and mosques, and the insurgents were aware that such places were sensitive and thus out of target for the coalition. However, if the coalition forces attacked them, the insurgents would employ and IO theme for their disgrace. The coalition forces dictated the time of the assault and also utilized deception among other methods to put off the insurgents. When it comes to the tactical level, 1st MARDIV executed a chain of feints and invasions that sustained the intelligence collection and analysis for feeding the targeting operations, and also confusing the enemy as regards the place and time of the assault.
The coalition forces had a significant concern for the civilians on the battlefield, but not so much for the insurgents, as they always threatened and used them within their raids, and utilized propaganda if the civilians were in the crossfire during an engagement. Prime Minister Allawi and the coalition army, to limit the civilian casualties and also be on top of the Information Operation domain, had to urge the inhabitants to vacate.
Comparison of the Forces
Before the rise of the insurgency, the Armed Forces still trained in the Decisive Action methodology which was suitable in some instances but was hard when it came to planning against an enemy with undefined tactics as the insurgents were dynamic. Here, the paper compares the size and composition, technology, doctrine and training, logistical systems, intelligence, and C2 among others between the two forces.
As aforementioned, the coalition army had about 15,000 personnel whereas the insurrectionary had approximately 4,000-5,000 warriors. The coalition comprised of the infantry, armored vehicles, field artillery, cavalry, air support, boat crew, and special operations, and their inconsistency regarding size and composition gave them an advantage over their rivals.
When it comes to technology, the coalition was dominant given that they had the precision bombs, modern weapons, unmannered aerial vehicles, and even communication podium. However, with the rise of new machinery, the forces especially Marines found some trouble with interoperability. According to Matt Matthews’ report, TF 2-7’S AAR noted the Army employed FM, ForceXXI Battle Command, FBCB2, and Blue Force Tracker, while the Marines used the tactical satellite radio (TACSAT), mIRC, Internet Relay Chat, and command and control for PC. Surprisingly enough, the competing system was not compatible and was never together in the entire units in the battlefield, and thus, the two groups never relied on the same communication system. The revolutionaries, on the contrary, applied the standard cell phones, two-way radios that lacked the advanced optics.
Doctrine wise, the U.S Armed Forces trained for a near-peer threat which made the particular operation community familiar with the guerilla-style strategy. Therefore, the structure of the coalition was like any traditional military army, whereas the opponent had various small teams for conducting the operations. Moreover, the Alliance Forces had the majority of the logistics based outside the camp in Fallujah, and upon the commencement of the process, would be ready with their logistical assets for resupply. Conversely, the enemy had its preparations in the city emplacing caches fully aware of the impossibility of the logistics. All such strategies made it hard for the coalition to establish the actual disposition, composition, and plans of the enemy.
The operation’s commandant was Major Gen. Richard F. Nantonski, Colonel Mike Shupp as the subordinate commander, and Colonel Craig Tucker being in charge of RCT-7. Equally, the rebel’s commander and control heads were Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, where the former was the primary indigenous leader in Fallujah who called for the resistance of the coalition, and the latter was the head of AQI.
The operation Al-Fajr comprised of five stages, the first one, preparation and shaping, was to confuse the enemy as concerns the time and place of the action. The coalition forces utilized the information operations and IO to drive a wedge between the opponent army and the local populace. The outcome of the stage was about 80% of the civilians vacating the city at the request by the American troops before the onset of the war.
Dr. Knarr and Major Castro state that, during the second phase, Enhanced Shaping, Fallujah was in isolation on the D-Day through the electronic attack and dynamic cordon to the southeast (by 2BCT of the 1st Cav. Division). Also, it was via securing the bridges on the west, joint fires, the peninsula assault, and seizure of the Fallujah Hospital.
The third phase of the assault, Decisive Offensive Operations, was mainly through RCT-1 and TF 2-7 in the west to penetrate and secure the Jolan District. The stage began with an artillery barrage to prepare the northwestern city for assault, and in the East, RCT-7 seized Hydrah Mosque, the government center, and even secured the main supply routes.
Transition, which was the fourth phase of the operation, instigated upon the clearing of most of the insurgents from Fallujah. The period transitions back to the Iraqis and the inhabitants as the U.S Army stayed back to assist in the rebuilding of the city. According to Dr. Knarr and Major Castro, on the 9th of December, Allawi pronounced the opening of Fallujah for resettlement by 23rd of December. The final phase, Transfer of Control, happened two years later when, after restoring the local security and government services, the Iraqi army handed over the city.
The Significance of the Action
Information Operations was a significant component in the entire process, and during the first battle, the revolutionaries utilized propaganda to win the affection of the populace; something that never transpired in the second combat. The Marine Commanders together with the Prime Minister held a daily brief addressing the progress of the operation and association between the Coalition and the Iraqi Forces.
As regards firing and targeting, there was a problem with the allocation of assets, for instance, there was no planning for the fires on the breach for RCT-7 AND TF 2-2 as the units lacked a PACE plan for the fires echelon. Indeed, the allocation of the majority of the assets was on the main effort whereas the supporting effort had almost none.