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Grange: Iraqis fight with 'economy of force'

'Take advantage of weather and terrain'

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange
Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange

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(CNN) -- With Iraqi units offering resistance against coalition forces in southern Iraq, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, a CNN military analyst, discussed their fighting methods on Tuesday:

The Iraqis are performing "economy of force" missions. The prime goal of these missions is to delay action, especially in Baghdad. The Iraqis want to delay, confuse, disrupt, and harass coalition forces as much as they can with the smallest amount of resources.

They are going to use the plain-clothed Fedayeen paramilitaries and other, different kinds of hardcore Baath party supporters who are integrated into the cities to force units to fight. They are going to perform operations behind the lines, attack logistical bases, and cut roads where coalition support and supply units are moving.

Weapons-wise, as we see now with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry unit, the Iraqis don't want to fight with tanks because they know the tanks will be destroyed. Instead, they are using snipers to shoot at the vehicles, sometimes with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades).

The Iraqis will take advantage of weather and terrain, like bridge crossings and narrow town streets, where the ground becomes restricted and coalition vehicles must be tightened into one column. Similarly, the Iraqis could shoot from farmhouses, irrigation ditches or behind people.

They will also continue to use deception, where they dress in civilian clothes or pretend to surrender, and then unexpectedly pull out a gun and start shooting. These operations will continue all the way back to Baghdad.

But such a situation doesn't mean the fighting around Basra, Nasiriya and Karbala won't continue. Economy of force harassment missions will continue to happen even when coalition forces get to the main defenses of their Republican Guard units.

The coalition hasn't seen much of these tactics in the North yet, but it can expect the same skirmishes there.

Fighting back

Fighting an economy of force attack is difficult. It's harder than fighting the strong forces because the coalition forces have rules of engagement where they try not to kill civilians. The coalition forces also want to avoid destroying too much infrastructure. As the United States saw with the Viet Cong's guerrilla methods during the Vietnam War, it is difficult to root out opposing forces when they blend into the population.

To be successful, the coalition forces have to use people that know how to fight these tactics people who understand guerrilla operations and urban warfare. British commandos have practiced these techniques in Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Malaysia, but U.S. special operations and Army infantry are also skilled.

A problem is that many of the support units in the rear areas are not trained in this type of fighting. To help protect the support units, leaders will designate ground and air tactical units to watch key areas. They will also have several protective reaction forces on standby throughout southern Iraq.

The coalition forces too will have to continually attempt to persuade the everyday people not to listen to the paramilitary Iraqi forces. Down south in Basra and Nasiriya, the people really would turn on the paramilitaries if they weren't afraid. The farther north the coalition forces get, the more the civilians will revolt against the Fedayeen and other Iraqi units.

The humanitarian aid will help if it gets to the right people. The coalition forces need to continue to try to influence the public because the coalition cannot do it by themselves.

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange served in the U.S. Army for 30 years. He last served as commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One." In that position, he served in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. During his military career, Grange served as a Ranger and Green Beret. Grange is currently an executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation in Chicago. He is one of CNN's military analysts, along with retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark and retired Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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