Second Iraq battle: 'morning after'
Tuesday's tape, thought to be by bin Laden, urges Muslims to use guerrilla tactics against US troops.
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In the "new Iraq," say analysts, Shiite Muslims in the east and south of the country, and Kurds in the north, are likely to seek quick revenge against the Baath Party, thus precipitating the need for coalition troops to stop the ethnic strife even as the tortuous heat of an Arabian summer closes in.Skip to next paragraph
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At the same time, however, the US-led stabilization efforts are likely to be frustrated by the need to fight a parallel, but not necessarily related, war on terror. US forces will face major challenges and limits to their mobility as peacekeepers because of the Pentagon's heightened "force protection" requirements, add the British analysts.
"As more terrorist groups emerge around Baghdad, it will become considerably harder to keep the peace," says Alexandra Ashborne, director of Ashborne-Beaver Associates, a defense-analysis institute in London. "There will be so much instability on the borders. I think Iran could pose the most danger. There will be a threat both from Al Qaeda and other groups that have yet to emerge. There could be kidnapping, hostage taking, and bomb threats."
Indeed, terrorists veiled as Bedouins trekking through the desert is one likely scenario. Few of the region's nomadic Bedouin tribesmen bother going through border checkpoints, and with Iraq's 3,500 miles of border, mostly with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, it will not be possible to keep up a constant guard at all crossing points, analysts warn.
The US military has concrete experience fighting Al Qaeda on the ground in Afghanistan, but using far different tactics than its top brass say they plan to employ in Iraq. Early in the Afghan conflict, the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership decided not to inject large numbers of conventional forces into the fray. The rationale was that the US did not want to get "bogged down" as the Soviet Army did in the 1980s, or become a target for extremists.
"My permanent mission was to bring down the Taliban regime, to destabilize and deny sanctuary to Al Qaeda, and we did that," says Col. John Mulholland, the Green Beret 5th Group commander who headed "Task Force Dagger," the Special Operations unit that led the Afghan campaign. "In the course of the war, we killed thousands of these [guys] across the country, some in close contact and others in air strikes." Colonel Mulholland's forces have currently infiltrated northern Iraq to prepare small bases of operation.
In a curious twist, the new audiocassette, which was released by the Al Jazeera TV station based in Doha, Qatar, suggests the Iraqi people should take heart from Al Qaeda's Afghan experience.
The speaker says that US bombs work effectively against stationary and known targets, but fail miserably when disguises and decoys are employed. At Tora Bora and at a later battle, Operation Anaconda, the terror network successfully dodged US bombing by setting up empty tents and by hiding in deep bunkers.
The speaker also encourages the use of suicide attacks on Westerners.