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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005





Part II

Transition to a New Campaign


Chapter 8
Combined Arms Operations in Iraq

 

AL FAJR: The Liberation of Fallujah

At 1900 on 8 November 2004 the US forces massed on the northern edge of the city of Fallujah began pouring fire into buildings just inside the wall that surrounded the city. As this fire forced insurgent groups to seek cover, other US units approached the wall that surrounded the city and prepared to create two breaches through which American Soldiers and Marines would invade Fallujah and put an end to the insurgent regime there. By midnight on that first day of the operation, the tanks and BFVs of two Army mechanized battalions had struck deep into the core of the city, eliminating insurgent positions with fire from the 120-mm main guns on the M1A2 Abrams tanks and the 25-mm chain guns on the BFVs. This quick and lethal advance disrupted insurgent command and control and forced enemy groups to seek refuge far from the marauding Army task forces.

With this violent and rapid assault, Operation AL FAJR (“New Dawn” in Arabic) began. The 1st Marine Division (1st MARDIV) planned the operation, originally called PHANTOM FURY, to free Fallujah from the grips of the insurgency and reestablish an enduring Iraqi governmental presence in the city in preparation for elections in January 2005. In terms of forces involved on both sides and intensity of combat, AL FAJR surpassed BATON ROUGE as the largest combat operation in Iraq since April 2003. The decisive assault that began on 8 November was led by two US Marine Corps regimental combat teams, reinforced by two US Army mechanized battalions, multiple Iraqi Army battalions, and numerous fire support platforms. This formidable force met the determined resistance of approximately 4,500 insurgents defending a fortified Fallujah that had been in their hands since April 2004. AL FAJR came to epitomize the type of full spectrum operations the US military had gradually learned to conduct in response to the insurgency. As a broad-based operation, AL FAJR included shaping actions that relied heavily on the use of IO, violent combined arms operations that defeated the insurgents in Fallujah, and stability operations that returned the city to normalcy and reasserted Iraqi authority.

Fallujah became a problem for the Coalition long before November 2004. Known for both its large number of mosques and its support of the Baathist government during Saddam’s regime, the city sits on the Euphrates River 43 miles west of Baghdad in the Sunni Arab-dominated Al Anbar province. Its approximately 250,000 inhabitants resided in a densely packed area of about 5 square miles. Concrete apartment buildings and two story houses, many with courtyard walls, dominated the geography of the city. Although Fallujans traveled primarily by the narrow roads and alleyways that separated the city’s dwellings, they also made use of several wider boulevards, the largest of which was Highway 10, the six-lane corridor that bisected the city from east to west. The city’s industrial area lay to the south of this highway.

Fallujah emerged as a flashpoint soon after the overthrow of the Saddam regime. On 28 April 2003 Soldiers from the 82d Airborne Division (82d ABN) shot into a crowd of Iraqis when a demonstration against the American presence turned violent. A number of Iraqis were killed and wounded as a result, although the actual figures never became clear. That event began the city’s slow transition into a center of anti-Coalition sentiment and insurgent activity. By early 2004 a myriad of insurgent and terrorist groups found a safe haven in Fallujah. The trigger that caused the Coalition to unleash its first military assault against the insurgent concentration in the city was the murder on 31 March 2004 of four American contractors working for the Blackwater Corporation. The killings became macabre after the insurgents mutilated and burned the bodies and eventually strung up two of the corpses from a bridge across the Euphrates River for millions of horrified television viewers to witness.

The first sign that the Coalition intended to forcefully respond to what was clearly a significant provocation came from the very top. Two days after the event, CPA Chief Paul Bremer declared:

Yesterday’s events in Fallujah are a dramatic example of the ongoing struggle between human dignity and barbarism. Five brave Soldiers were killed by an attack in their area. Then, two vehicles containing four Americans were attacked and their bodies subjected to barbarous maltreatment. The acts we have seen were despicable and inexcusable. They violate the tenets of all religions, including Islam, as well as the foundations of civilized society. Their deaths will not go unpunished.85

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) spearheaded the Coalition’s attack on Fallujah on 7 April in an operation called VIGILANT RESOLVE. Four Marine battalions reinforced by a small number of tanks and various forms of air and artillery support entered the city and began making slow progress against the insurgents who made effective use of the urban terrain. To deal with the resistance, the Marines called in artillery and fire from AC-130 gunships. The amount of destruction in Fallujah raised protests from the IGC, which had opposed VIGILANT RESOLVE and almost collapsed over opposition to this Marine operation. The political pressure from the IGC forced the United States to halt military operations in Fallujah and declare a unilateral cease-fire on 9 April 2004.

After the announcement of the cease-fire, the Marines attempted to resolve the security situation in Fallujah by putting it in the hands of Iraqi forces. At the end of April, the Marines turned over the city to the so-called Fallujah Brigade, an ad hoc unit of local forces led by General Muhammad Latif, a former Saddam Hussein crony, who was both ineffective and openly hostile toward the Coalition. This agreement left the insurgents largely in place and able to claim a victory over the United States. By mid-2004 the insurgents in the city had co-opted the Fallujah Brigade, introduced Sharia law to the city, and used that code to impose harsh behavioral limitations on Fallujah’s populace. As it became increasingly isolated from Coalition influence, Fallujah’s insurgent leaders such as Sheik Abdullah Janabi, the head of the Mujahideen Shura (Council), became emboldened. More importantly, the city became a magnet for other radical Islamist leaders like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and ex-Baathist fighters who viewed Fallujah as an excellent bastion behind whose walls they could plan and launch operations against targets in other parts of Iraq. Between May and late October 2004 the flow of insurgents into the city increased their number to 4,500. As the summer progressed, much of the activity of these groups focused on strengthening the city’s defenses in expectation that the Coalition forces would try once again to gain control of Fallujah. Coalition intelligence would later conclude that the enemy force in the city constructed 306 defensive strongpoints, most of which were reinforced with IEDs.86


The Distinguished Service Cross
For Extraordinary Heroism in Action
Army NCOs in Fallujah

Master Sergeant Donald R. Hollenbaugh and Staff Sergeant Daniel A. Briggs each received the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions on 26 April 2004 during operations in Fallujah, Iraq. While assigned to the US Army Special Operations Command and operating in support of the United States Marine Corps, Hollenbaugh and Briggs prevented approximately 300 enemy fighters from overrunning the platoon of Marines to which they were attached. Occupying a forward observation point approximately 300 meters forward of friendly forces, the Marine platoon faced isolation and destruction as enemy forces advanced along the narrow streets and alleys threatening to cut it off from the main element. After another team took casualties during the initial contact, Briggs crossed a street under intense small arms fire to render aid to the wounded and organize defensive operations. At approximately the same time, enemy fire wounded a large number of Marines located at the platoon’s original position. Hollenbaugh began directing the platoon’s defense, constantly moving around his team’s perimeter and engaging enemy personnel so that the enemy came to believe they faced a much larger force. His success in delaying the enemy’s advance bought the Marine platoon enough time to evacuate their casualties and withdraw to a more secure position. Of the 37 Marines in the platoon, 25 were wounded (11 required litter evacuation) and 1 was killed in action. In receiving the Distinguished Service Cross, Staff Sergeant Briggs was cited for “repeatedly subjecting himself to intense and unrelenting enemy fire in order to provide critical medical attention to severely injured Marines” and “preventing enemy insurgent forces from over-running the United States Force’s position.” For his award, Master Sergeant Hollenbaugh was recognized for demonstrating “the highest degree of courage and excellent leadership through his distinguished performance as Team Leader while engaged in Urban Combat Operations. His heroic actions throughout one of the most intensive firefights of the Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign were directly responsible for preventing enemy insurgent forces from overrunning the United States Force.”

Kevin, Maurer, “Courage Under Fire,”
Fayetteville Observer, 23 June 2005.

 

 

This insurgent assumption about an impending attack was correct. In the summer of 2004 Coalition leaders began crafting a plan for an operation that would liberate the city. As in April, the Marines would lead the assault on the insurgents in Fallujah. Major General Richard Natonski, the commander of the 1st MARDIV, stated that his overall intent for the operation was to do three things: eliminate insurgent activity, set the conditions for local control in the city, and support the MNF-I effort to secure approaches to Baghdad.87 The plan consisted of four phases and would require several months to execute. Phase I, Preparation/Shaping, brought together a variety of efforts to stage the forces that would conduct the assault and “shape the battlefield,” which included gathering intelligence on the enemy strength, preparations, methods, and tendencies. Information on the insurgents in Fallujah indicated they would not be surprised by a US-led attack on the city. Nevertheless, that did not mean the insurgents knew when the attack would take place or which avenue of approach Coalition forces would use to enter the city. Marine planners did have intelligence that suggested insurgents within Fallujah had constructed most of their fighting positions to defend against an attack into the southeast corner of the city, the direction used by the Marines in April during VIGILANT RESOLVE. Marine planners took steps to reinforce that belief. In November, however, the assault would come from a different direction. Further, Marine commanders verified that insurgent and terrorist groups were using 33 of the 72 mosques in Fallujah for military purposes and pinpointed specific buildings in the city used as safe houses by the insurgents.88 Coalition forces then began targeting these sites to disrupt the enemy before the actual assault began.

AL FAJR planners also used Phase I to conduct an aggressive information campaign aimed at decreasing the legitimacy of the insurgent network and keeping the insurgent network off balance. The Marines relied on special operations forces to conduct raids and feints, especially on the southern edge of Fallujah, as part of the overall deception plan to confirm enemy assumptions that Coalition forces would attack from that direction.89 Psychological operations (PSYOP) teams also used leaflets and other means to communicate to the population how the widespread insurgent activity prevented the Coalition from investing up to $30 million in building up Fallujah’s economic infrastructure. These information offensives also emphasized what most inside Fallujah already knew: the insurgent network did not offer a political goal that most or even many Iraqis endorsed. Instead, the network was made up of disparate groups, unified only in their desire to defeat and expel the Coalition. The most important PSYOP message to the Fallujah population was to leave immediately because the Coalition was planning to enter. A significant majority, probably close to 80 percent of the population, heeded the call of the Americans and actually departed.90


In preparation for the battle, the Marines built Camp Fallujah southeast of the city where they could create a supply and training base. The camp became the site of large stocks of ammunition, fuel, food, and other supplies, with the objective of building a 15-day supply of critical materials in a secure spot near the battlefield. This decision made Coalition forces less vulnerable to supply shortages caused by the potential insurgent interdiction of lines of communication as had happened during the April uprisings.91 Camp Fallujah also became a base for the training and integration of the Iraqi Army battalions that would participate in later phases of the operation. Additionally, in the days before the assault on Fallujah, the base became the firing position of an Army artillery battery that would provide critical fire support to the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, and ISF who were about to enter the fortified city.


Phase I, Preparation and Shaping, began in September 2004 and continued through October as the Coalition waited for the proper military and political conditions that would allow for the transition to the assault phase of the operation. Before the assault could begin, Marine planners decided to add a short phase that featured the final actions designed to set the battlefield and gain critical advantages. During Phase II, Enhanced Shaping, Coalition forces, including the 2d BCT, 1st CAV (Black Jack Brigade), would take up positions to the south and east of Fallujah, securing bridges and other entryways into the city to contain the insurgents that remained inside. Other units began moving into attack and blocking positions to the west and north of the city. To place the insurgents under pressure, the 1st MARDIV planned to use snipers, raids, feints, and searches in the Fallujah area, actions which Major General Natonski would later describe as leaving the ranks of the insurgents in the city in a “heightened state of paranoia and anxiety.”92 On the eve of the operation, Natonski planned to send the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion to seize the Fallujah Hospital on the western fringe of the city. To support this attack, the Marine 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, reinforced by a company from the Army’s 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry, would secure the bridges near the hospital. During VIGILANT RESOLVE, insurgent groups had used the hospital as a platform to distribute propaganda and effectively turn public opinion against the Coalition. The US and Iraqi operation to secure the hospital would deny the insurgents the possibility of repeating that success.


Phase III of the operation would be the decisive piece of AL FAJR. Natonski established a straightforward mission for his forces in this phase: attack “to destroy anti-Iraqi forces in Fallujah to establish legitimate local control.”93 He and his staff then divided the phase into two subphases: IIIA—assault; and IIIB—search and attack.94 To achieve their objectives once Phase III began, the Marines planned to conduct a rapid penetration of the city using shock, firepower, and mobility of an armored force. Natonski believed a heavier and more mobile force would help overcome some of the problems encountered by the Marines during the April VIGILANT RESOLVE debacle.

Based on intelligence that revealed the formidable strength of the insurgent defenses in Fallujah, the Marines believed they did not have enough tanks and heavy infantry fighting vehicles to quickly penetrate the outer defenses and spearhead the assault. By doctrinal organization, the two United States Marine Corps (USMC) regimental combat teams (RCT-1 and RCT-7) that served as the assault force had only a small number of tanks. Recognizing the need for more heavily armored firepower, Natonski pushed a request for US Army mechanized forces up through the chain of command.95 The requirement reached the commander of MNC-I, Lieutenant General Thomas Metz, who eventually decided to attach two Army mechanized battalions—2d Battalion, 2d Infantry (from the 1st ID) and 2d Battalion, 7th Cavalry (from the 1st CAV)—to the 1st MARDIV for the direct assault on Fallujah.96 Lieutenant General John Sattler, the commander of the 1st MEF, described these two Army units as the penetration forces that would punch through insurgent positions and drive deep into the city, thus disrupting the enemy’s ability to mount both defensive operations and counterattacks.97

Natonski’s joint Marine and Army TF would attack with additional units, taking on a true joint and combined character. The assault force would include six Iraqi Army battalions that were to follow the Marine and US Army units into the city. Further, the British Black Watch Battle Group assisted with the isolation of the Fallujah area. The RCTs would gain joint assistance in the form of US Navy Seal teams and Air Force Enlisted Terminal Attack Controllers (ETACs) who would coordinate the use of US Air Force (USAF) aircraft for close air support. Moreover, Natonski’s force took the idea of jointness one step further by integrating the Army and Marine units at company level and below. In one case, 2-2d IN received a Marine Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) company for operations. In another, Army commanders detached tank and BFV sections to Marine reconnaissance companies.98 All told, the Coalition forces involved in AL FAJR numbered close to 12,000, of whom approximately 10,000 would enter the city at some point in the operation.

As the end of October approached, Coalition military authorities believed the first phase of AL FAJR was nearing completion. Most of the required forces were in place and the great majority of civilians in Fallujah had followed the Coalition’s recommendations and left the city.99 What remained was the final decision to launch the assault. On 30 October a terrorist with a bomb in his car killed eight US Marines and wounded nine others outside of Fallujah. This incident prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to announce on 7 November that a State of Emergency existed across Iraq (except for the Kurdish-controlled north), which would allow for curfews and other measures designed to curb the insurgency. Allawi also stated he believed the situation in Fallujah could no longer be solved by peaceful means and he had given his approval for an attack on the city.100 This endorsement of a new offensive operation against the insurgents in Fallujah was critical in the wake of VIGILANT RESOLVE, when political pressures from the Iraqi Government had forced the Coalition to halt its April attack arguably transforming that operation from a tactical stalemate into a strategic victory for the insurgency. With Allawi’s approval, the Marines and the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion began Phase II, Enhanced Shaping Operations, at 1900 on 7 November. Once this combined force seized and secured the city hospital, Natonski directed the main assault to begin the next day.


The attack on the hospital deceived the insurgent defenders. Thinking that this small action was the vanguard of the main assault force, enemy commanders began moving their small units toward the fighting, thus revealing their locations, tactics, and techniques.101 However, the main effort for Phase III was on the opposite side of the city. The two reinforced RCTs of the 1st MARDIV stood ready to begin the main attack on 8 November by making two breaches in a railroad embankment and the city wall on the northern edge of the city. The holes would allow the RCTs to move into Fallujah on parallel axes with RCT-1 on the western axis and RCT-7 on the eastern side of the city. Leading the penetrations would be the M1 Abrams tanks and BFVs of the 2-7th CAV and 2-2d IN.

At 1900 on the night of 8 November, after an artillery preparation by 155-mm howitzers hit the neighborhoods in the northwest corner of the city, Alpha Company, 2-2d IN approached the wall that surrounded Fallujah. The engineers attached to the battalion fired a Mine Clearing Line Charge (MCLC), an explosive device used to clear minefields, and made a breach large enough to accommodate the unit’s powerful armored vehicles. The MCLC immediately set off six IEDs that had been placed on or near the wall to disable any invading force. Concerned about the presence of other IEDs, Captain Sean Sims, the company commander, led the way through the breach with two Abrams Plow tanks, M1A2s configured with a large blade on the front used to clear mines and other obstacles. Once inside the city, Alpha Company pushed south making way for Alpha Company, 2-63d Armor, a tank company attached to 2-2d IN, to expand the foothold that US forces had established in Fallujah. For the next 3 hours, these two companies were in constant contact with the enemy. Dismounted insurgents, moving in the open on the streets and rooftops, engaged the Soldiers with small arms fire, RPGs, and IEDs hidden in buildings and road barriers.102 Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, a squad leader in Alpha Company, 2-2d IN, described encountering very sophisticated defensive positions in the buildings close to the breach site: “During the day, you could see the way these insurgents were dug in; and without that relentless 155-millimeter barrage, we would’ve taken massive casualties. The front four buildings we were going into, which were completely pancaked—there were little spider trails and you could see fighting positions everywhere: dug in, overhead cover, even [grenade] sumps on the bottom.”103 The Soldiers of 2-2d IN also found entire buildings that had been filled with C4 explosives and converted into huge IEDs.


In the almost total darkness of that first night, the enemy discovered that the Soldiers could combine their night vision capabilities with the powerful weapons on their armored vehicles to create lethal fires that collapsed buildings and killed insurgents. Despite this fact, as the lead units of 2-2d IN made their way slowly to the south, the insurgent resistance reacted by retreating from building to building using tunnels or moving across rooftops, while maintaining its small arms and grenade fire on US forces. Bellavia recalled that the Soldiers in the tanks and BFVs easily identified the groups that tried to halt the American advance and engaged them in a very direct and effective manner: “You would actually hear insurgents challenging [Alpha Company’s] tanks with AK-47 fire and then, Boom! Silence.”104 Using these tactics, the Soldiers of 2-2d IN, the lead element on the eastern axis of the assault, pushed deeply into the city and by dawn were overlooking their objective, Highway 10, the main east-west corridor through Fallujah, also known as main supply route (MSR) Michigan to US troops. They had traveled approximately 1 mile through a complex urban environment, but their assault had been so rapid and violent that many of the insurgents in the northeastern part of the city had begun streaming away from 2-2’s advance into the western half of Fallujah.105


On the western axis, RCT-1, AL FAJR’s main effort, was behind schedule. Difficulties with the breaches of the embankment and the wall had slowed the Marines’ progress. However, by 0200 on 9 November, the Marine combat team was on the move and had conducted a passage of lines allowing 2-7th CAV to take the lead into Fallujah. The tanks of Alpha Company, 2-7th CAV, the lead element in the assault, quickly began moving down one of the city’s streets toward Jolan Park, an antiquated amusement park that was the unit’s first objective. When they met insurgent resistance, the Soldiers of the TF called on the Marines for close air support or used the main guns on their tanks and BFVs to quickly suppress enemy defensive positions. Lieutenant Colonel James Rainey, the commander of 2-7th CAV, directed the tanks of Alpha Company to sweep through the park, after which the infantrymen in the BFVs would dismount to clear the objective of any insurgents that might remain. Rainey contended that the rapidity and lethality of this tactic “totally devastated the enemy . . . they were still trying to get out of the way of the tanks and BFVs and our infantry squads were on top of them.”106 As the sun rose on 9 November, the Soldiers of 2-7th CAV had seized Jolan Park and were prepared to pass 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment through their position as the Marines continued to attack.

Marine planners for AL FAJR envisioned that the Army’s mechanized spearheads would require 4 or 5 days to seize and secure central Fallujah. But those mechanized battalions had made short work of the insurgents’ defenses and denied them the time to reestablish a solid defense. Instead of the 72-to-96 hours anticipated for the capture of the central city, lead elements of RCT-7 crossed Phase Line Fran, the control measure that denoted that central spot, in a mere 43 hours. Adjusting their prebattle plans, Marine commanders decided to have RCT-1 in the west continue its southward assault as RCT-7, with 2-2d IN on the left flank, would swing around to the southwest.

By the second day the mission for most maneuver units was “search and attack in zone,” which included a great deal of intense street combat and house-to-house fighting. Many of the remaining insurgents were hardened fighters who knew how to use their small arms and RPGs. Captain Chris Brooke, commander of C Company, 2-7th CAV, described the enemy as initiating contact from alleyways and fortified buildings with sequential salvos of RPGs.107 Initially, he ordered his platoons to maneuver on these enemy locations; but by the first night, Brooke and his subordinate leaders were suppressing the insurgent positions with 25-mm fire from their BFVs while the company fire support officer (FSO) called in fire from 120-mm mortars or 155-mm howitzers or even from aircraft that dropped 500-pound bombs. “We engaged with the largest size ordnance the FSO could achieve clearance for,” Brooke stated and added, “This proved to be highly successful.”108

After the first 5 days of “search and attack operations,” enemy contact became more sporadic and the insurgent enemy became more willing to surrender. The two Army battalions remained with the RCTs for the next 8 days as the city was gradually cleared and the 1st MARDIV began preparing for a transition to the next phase of AL FAJR. While both RCTs had made better than expected progress in AL FAJR, problems emerged in the coordination between US Army and Marine units. The most disruptive was the speed at which the Army mechanized task forces moved through the city. Although this capability had unhinged enemy command and control, the quick Army maneuver often left the Marine infantry units behind, causing gaps and insecure flanks as the Marines carefully cleared buildings before moving forward. At times, Marine commanders directed the Army battalions to cease movement while the Marine units caught up.109 The difference in rates of advance reflected the difference between the Army mission to penetrate the defenses and seize key terrain in the city, and the Marine units who had to methodically clear every building in Fallujah. Problems with communications, coordinating close air support, and sharing of intelligence also created some obstacles in the joint operation.110

These challenges were relatively minor flaws in an operation that was highly successful from the joint perspective. The Marines, the Army, and other joint and Coalition elements had come together and created a plan for the operation that synchronized their systems and command structures to leverage the capabilities of each service. For the Marine and Army units, tactical interoperability and integration reached a level unseen since World War II. Marine rifle companies, for example, had called in Army tanks and BFVs to suppress enemy fortified positions before their assaults. The Marines, for their part, attached their engineer demolition teams to the 2-7th CAV’s platoons where they proved particularly effective in making large holes in concrete walls for the battalion’s infantry to use in clearing a market in the Jolan Park area of Fallujah.


Despite the issues of coordination that at times made some aspects of the operation problematic, the operation’s leaders were impressed by the effectiveness of the Marine-Army teams. Rainey stated he was humbled by “the selflessness and lethality of the American fighting man: Marine and Soldier, tanker and infantryman . . . to watch these guys look at a building full of bad guys that they know are in there, to watch them look at their buddy and look at their team leader and go, ‘Hell yeah, we can do this.’ They went building after building, block after block and won every single fight.”111 The commander of RCT-1, Colonel Michael Shupp, believed that at the tactical level Soldiers and Marines worked very well together, “It really was one team, one fight.”112

The integration of Iraqi Army units also went smoothly. In marked contrast to April 2004 when an Iraqi unit had refused to fight during VIGILANT RESOLVE, in November most Iraqi soldiers performed well. The six battalions that entered the city in the assault cleared assigned buildings and neighborhoods, attacked and cleared sensitive targets such as mosques, and helped gather and process intelligence. They played a particularly important role in taking detainees and screened these prisoners to determine whether or not they were combatants. Perhaps most impressively, the 2d Iraqi Army Battalion, the unit that had balked at combat in Fallujah in April, returned for AL FAJR and fought competently beside the Soldiers and Marines.113

Success in AL FAJR came at a high price. In the period between 7 November and 31 December 2004 when sporadic resistance ceased, 82 Americans lost their lives in the fighting in Fallujah and over 600 were wounded.114 The majority of the casualties were Marines who bore the brunt of the house-to-house clearing operations. Those operations led to the deaths of 76 Marines. The two Army task forces suffered the loss of six Soldiers, five in 2-2d IN and one in 2-7th CAV. The fighting in AL FAJR wounded another 72 Soldiers.115 Iraqi Army units suffered as well. At the end of the first 2 weeks of combat inside the city, the Iraqis had lost 6 killed and 55 wounded.116 Of the approximately 4,500 insurgents in Fallujah, the Coalition forces killed 2,000, taking another 1,200 as prisoners.117 These casualty figures are striking, but given the historical record of battles in urban terrain, the numbers, especially for Coalition forces, are relatively light.

Of course the Soldiers’ and Marines’ use of heavy firepower helps explain the difference between friendly and enemy casualties. During AL FAJR, Coalition forces directed thousands of artillery shells, mortar rounds, and bombs at targets in the city. Urban combat against a defender willing to fight hard has historically driven the attacker to use massive amounts of firepower; the second Battle for Fallujah was no exception. However, this reliance on firepower, especially indirect fire and close air support, created a different problem once the battle was over. How would the Coalition deal with the destruction it caused in Fallujah and avoid creating more insurgents out of those who had fled the city and lost their property?

MNF-I and the Marines had anticipated the great damage caused by the Coalition assault and had tried to avoid hitting key infrastructure, such as the electrical grid, the bridges over the Euphrates River, and the water supply.118 More importantly, the Coalition planned a fourth phase to follow the attack. Phase IV, Transition, made use of a huge stockpile of food, water, and medical supplies accumulated outside the city in Camp Fallujah. CA teams and US Navy Construction Battalions (Seabees) also moved into the city to establish a civil-military operations center and clear the streets of rubble. Other Marine teams cleared unexploded ordnance from buildings and began repairing the damage to electrical lines.119 The Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO), which served as part of the US Embassy, had also set aside $12 million to cover the cost of longer-term reconstruction in Fallujah.120

Finally, 6 weeks after the assault began, the Marines allowed some of Fallujah’s citizens to return. When they arrived, the Coalition gave them $2,500 as a form of compensation and condolence for their losses and suffering. Strict access controls imposed by the Coalition and the Iraqi Government prevented insurgents from infiltrating back into the city. These were some of the many steps in a much larger effort to rebuild a city and its population that began after the end of AL FAJR. As Iraq prepared for elections in January 2005, Fallujah stood as a symbol of the Coalition’s and the IIG’s resolve to remove all obstacles from the path of political progress.


Chapter 8. Combined Arms Operations in Iraq





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