March 22, 2003



Now an ITV crew is missing near Basra.

Posted by BruceR at 10:38 AM



In response to a question, Franks says 1-2,000 Iraqis are currently POWs, nothing like the much larger numbers the networks have been bandying about in the last day. The likely reason: the story was that the 51st Mechanized surrendered with 8,000 men, dozens of tanks, etc. Eight thousand is the establishment strength of an Iraqi division... using it as an estimate of how many people in the 51st actually surrendered yesterday is rather ludicrous. The division probably went into the fight about half-strength, and had already lost two thirds of that as deserters, casualties, etc. And the initial Times report said they didn't surrender en masse... just fell apart... some reports said the divisional commander was picked up on the road to Nasariyah, while his troops were by all accounts in front of Basra... odds are he actually was deserting his post and just ran into some American marines by mistake.

Franks is also saying they're going to bypass Basra, which makes sense. But the terrain stretching to the west of the city, between Basra and Nasariyah, isn't good for maneuver or transport... if they were going to run their logistical line north along the Tigris, and move on Amarah from the south, they would HAVE to take the city itself and its road network sooner or later. If that's NOT the plan, watch for Franks to start switching forces, particularly the British, back to the Euphrates line and Nasariyah, which would allow them to sustain a drive going north, northwest or northeast from those Euphrates crossings under supply.

UPDATE: Some people are also basing their optimistic conclusions on Wednesday's "decapitation" strike on the fact the Iraqis aren't really "doing" anything. Of course, that's also entirely consistent with the prediction that the Iraqis had no Scuds or weapons of mass destruction left, and they were planning to really start fighting only at Baghdad's outskirts. At any rate, the Iraqis have yet to fail to execute any capability they were KNOWN to have. And it's notable that two days later, low-level fighting is still going on in Umm Qasr. Umm Qasr is right on the border... the Iraqis had to know that it was certain to be overrun in hours. So certainly anyone still fighting in that town isn't doing so under military orders... we're talking francs-tireurs and guerillas now... likely Iraqi functionaries who know their lives are forfeit in a predominantly Shiite area anyway.

UPDATE, 1015 EST: Seems I'm right... CNN's Martin Savidge with 1st/7th Marines is now on a highway driving WEST from Basra. That's suggests elements of 1 Mar Div are now switching back, moving towards Nasariyah. Notably there was no traffic on the road going in the other direction... CNN's Walter Rodgers meanwhile, just reported that the 3rd Infantry Division hasn't moved forward in 6 hours, and the 7th Cavalry is hunkering down for the night, presumably to the west or northwest of Nasariyah. He said they were in contact with a significant enemy formation, larger than they expected, in the presence of an "unusual terrain feature." (I'm guessing Samawah.)

Posted by BruceR at 09:55 AM



Something that may not have occurred to everyone yet... the highest-value target on the Allied side isn't the soldiers. It's the journalists. Ansar al-Islam's figured it out, though.

Posted by BruceR at 08:59 AM

NASARIYAH 2 It appears the


It appears the Americans have now bridged the Euphrates between Nasariyah and Samawah. (Iraqi report -- British report)

There's a lot of premature media ejaculation going on, particularly on MS-NBC and Fox News, about Basra. Watch for what Gen. Franks actually says at 9 this morning.

Posted by BruceR at 08:35 AM