JINSA Online, December 27, 2004


Fallujah Success Capitalized on IDF Know-How

Army and Marine Corps forces that battled terrorist insurgents in the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Mosul employed urban warfare tactics gleaned from the combat experience of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). In the last two years, hundreds of U.S. military personnel have trained in the Negev desert at Israel's Adam counter insurgency urban warfare training facility. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has completed the construction of a number of simulated Arab villages at the U.S. Army's Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

In a letter to Army Magazine in July 2003, Brig. Gen. Michael Vane - Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) - wrote that U.S. officers had recently "traveled to Israel to glean lessons learned from their [Israeli] counterterrorist operations in urban areas." Later, an unnamed U.S. official told the World Tribune, November 10, 2004, "We have learned a lot regarding urban warfare tactics in the Middle East from our allies - yes, this includes Israel."

IDF soldiers train at the Adam counter insurgency urban warfare training facility in Israel.

At the JRTC, the U.S. Army simulates everything from local government meetings, religious protests, and mobs angry over an absence of electrical power or water, and attacks by insurgents, according to the Associated Press (AP), February 14, 2004. The Department of Defense predicts that by 2010, 75 percent of the world's population will live in or around urban centers, making urban warfare training a priority for the military.

Former Iraqi citizens - many whom fled Saddam's regime over the last decade and have since become U.S. citizens - participate in role-playing exercises to help prepare American soldiers earmarked for deployment to Iraq. Hussain Talabani, a 46-year-old Kurdish refugee from Kirkuk, Iraq, regularly participates as a civilian in a simulated mob where sometimes he begs for food, sometimes lures U.S. soldiers into ambushes, and sometimes attempts to provoke American forces. "Whatever way I try to push [the American soldiers] into a corner, they are still quite clear. They are honest with themselves and the people they are confronted with,'' he told the AP, February 14, 2004.

U.S. Army soldiers portray terrorists carrying out a drive-by shooting at the U.S. Army's Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

In 2003, the fringe media reported that Israeli commandos were training U.S. Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The story, apparently lacking sufficient sources, was not picked up by the mainstream media. AP, however, reported on December 13, that a large TRADOC delegation visited Israel that year. Anonymous sources said the focus of the meeting was urban warfare tactics learned from the IDF incursions into Jenin and the Gaza Strip in 2002. Israeli officials issued a statement declining to comment on "ongoing strategic cooperation between the U.S. and the Israeli military."

Another area where Israel may have contributed valuable know-how is on the area of information extraction from high-level prisoners. Several fringe media sources noted that American forces had utilized interrogation methods considered to be successful that were learned from Israel where physical punishment is banned by law, the same as in the U.S. This story comes from one outlet - Jane's Foreign Report of July 7, 2004 - and like the issue of the extent of Israeli training for U.S. forces, was also not deemed verifiable by the mainstream press.

Some of Israel's most valued contributions to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) were its advice on erecting and manning roadblocks and checkpoints, and techniques for tracking suspected terrorist using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). More specific assistance has reportedly come in the form of aerial surveillance equipment, decoy drones, and the use of armored construction equipment to clear booby-trapped structures, according to Reuters, December 12, 2003. In Fallujah, Israeli mine-clearing and wall-breaching methods were employed. Opening holes in walls allows U.S. troops to bypass explosive devices on booby-trapped doors. It is also used to create paths through adjoining buildings limiting soldiers' exposure to enemy fire in narrow alleyways and on open streets.

Since liberating Fallujah from the terrorist insurgents, Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) soldiers have uncovered bomb manufacturing facilities, major weapons caches, and captured foreign fighters. Evidence of heinous atrocities and human rights' violations committed against Fallujah residents and foreign nationals by the insurgents were also discovered.

[To understand the magnitude of the battle for Fallujah and the magnitude of the American and Iraqi victory, right-click on the link: First Marine Expeditionary Force presentation "Telling the Fallujah Story to the World" and choose to "save to disk" then open the slide show presentation with Microsoft's PowerPoint application.]

Of the 100 mosques located throughout Fallujah, 60 were used as fighting positions and/or weapons caches in violation of the Geneva Convention, which forbids the use of places of worship "in support of the military effort." MEF forces also discovered at least 11 factories used for the manufacturing of IEDs - including a suicide car bomb assembly facility. American and Iraqi forces confronted and safely detonated 653 IEDs during the battle for Fallujah. Sophisticated electronics and circuitry used for remotely triggering IEDs were found at many sites as well as advanced communication gear,

This almost complete IED was found just inside the doorway of a suspected IED manufacturing center. The IED under construction appeared to be a type of padded armrest similar to those found in local Iraqi vehicles.

In one stunning discovery, a GPS receiver was recovered with waypoints originating in western Syria. Since recovering the GPS receiver, U.S. forces have backtracked the user-entered waypoints from Fallujah to Syria, locating insurgent safe houses and exposing Sunni-run network supporting the foreign fighters entering from Syria. During the past weekend, the 1st Brigade of the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division, in conjunction with Iraqi forces, stormed the Iraqi border town of Biaj where several suspected Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters were captured, according to Middle East News Line (MENL), December 7, 2004. Biaj has been cordoned off pending additional searches for weapons and insurgents. Twenty-seven foreign fighters were captured during the joint U.S. and Iraqi liberation of Fallujah - including five Saudis, four Syrians, one Sudanese, one Moroccan, one Algerian, and more than 12 fighters whose nationality has yet to be determined.

U.S. and Iraqi forces in Fallujah identified 203 major weapon caches - one for every five blocks - illuminating the type of ruthless urban warfare insurgents were hoping to wage against the liberating forces entering Fallujah. Among the discoveries was the location of at least three human slaughterhouses used by insurgent forces to torture and kill local residents and foreign nationals.

This SUV was being converted into a car bomb when the assault to recapture Fallujah commenced.

Blood covered walls and floors; along with blood-soaked bags of sand used to soak up spilt blood, greeted U.S.-led forces entering the torture facilities in western and southern Fallujah. The discovered location of the National Islamic Resistance Center - home to the insurgency - surrendered evidence of multiple atrocities and contained a computer bank used to disseminate propaganda and media. Four videotaped beheadings, in addition to training videos and correspondence, were recovered from the various locations. Some of the media evidently contained filmed suicide attacks, ambushes on American forces, and the religious burial of "martyrs". Light arms and urban warfare training manuals were also discovered along with correspondence and letters. One badly tortured Iraqi hostage was rescued in northwestern Fallujah by allied forces.

Handheld GPS receiver found in an IED factory contained waypoints originating in western Syria

Although the U.S.-led effort to liberate Fallujah was considered an operational success, the Department of Defense has chartered a blue-ribbon panel to investigate ways to improve the U.S. military's ability to confront and suppress urban guerilla attacks such as those faced in Fallujah, according to Defense News, December 6, 2004. Designated as the Defense Science Board Task Force on Force Protection in Urban and Unconventional Environments and initiated in late November, the panel expects to draw upon lessons learned by other nations whom have served in similar urban environments; including Great Britain's campaigns in Northern Ireland, Israel's ongoing struggle with Palestinian terrorist groups, and Russia's experience in Chechnya, Defense News reported.

Under immediate investigation by the board are the leading causes of injury and death of military forces serving in post-major combat operations and the U.S. military's intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities in such an environment. Two of the major threats already identified by the task group include rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Of the 500-600 detonated IEDs each month in Iraq, roughly half of them cause harm to U.S. soldiers and their vehicles. In July, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz created a separate joint task force to study ways to defeat IEDs and the shifting insurgent tactics for adapting to the counter-IED measures employed by U.S. forces, Defense News reported.

Anticipating future conflicts in urban environments, a joint project led by the U.S. Army and Raytheon Company, successfully fired a 155mm howitzer shell 20 kilometers down range that was guided to its target using global positioning system (GPS). During the flight at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, the "Excalibur" artillery shell continuously corrected its flight and impacted within 10 feet of the target. "With noncombatants around, hospitals nearby, we can't afford to have rounds going every which way," stated John Halvey, Raytheon's program manager in an interview with Defense News, November 29, 2004. "The accuracy and size of the warhead, especially in urban terrain, we can take out that building, but the building across the street will be fin and still standing.

The Excalibur GPS-guided artillery projectile.

Excalibur's unorthodox flight path also makes it an attractive weapon system for urban warfare scenarios. "Excalibur doesn't follow a ballistic trajectory like normal artillery rounds, it glides to a target area and when it gets over the target, it does a nose-down maneuver - straight down. You don't have to worry about intervening buildings," said Lt. Col William Cole, the Army's program manager told Defense News. The original operational requirements document (ORD) called for the GPS-guided round to come within 60 meters of the intended target to be considered a success. Excalibur is scheduled to enter service with the U.S. Marine Corps and the Army by October 2006.

by JINSA Editorial Assistant Jonathan Howland

HOMEThe Maccabean OnlineComments