American military officials are trying to steer Israel away from the type of brutal, urban combat the US engaged in against insurgents during the Iraq War, in an effort to keep the Israelis from getting bogged down in bloody, house-by-house fighting as they prepare for an assault on Gaza, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
In helping the Israel Defense Forces game out a number of different strategies to defeat Hamas, US military advisers on the ground in Israel are invoking lessons learned specifically from Fallujah in 2004, one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq War.
Instead of launching a full-scale ground assault on Gaza, which could endanger hostages, civilians, and further inflame tensions in the region, US military advisers are urging Israelis to use a combination of precision airstrikes and targeted special operations raids.
They are also drawing on strategies developed during the battle by US-led coalition forces to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS, which relied more heavily on special operations forces. Like Hamas, ISIS built tunnels throughout Mosul and used civilians as human shields, and the fight to retake the city was harder and more drawn-out than anticipated.
To help deliver this message, the Biden administration has sent a three-star Marine Corps general to counsel the IDF on planning its tactical assault. Gen. James Glynn, the former commander of Marine Forces Special Operations Command, has significant experience with urban warfare in Iraq, particularly in Fallujah, where he commanded troops during some of the bloodiest fighting there between US forces and insurgents, officials said.
Since the Hamas terror attack on Israel on October 7, the US has grown increasingly concerned that Israel’s strategy to move into Gaza with a large number of ground troops is only half-baked and could lead to a bloody and indefinite occupation by Israeli forces in the Gaza strip, officials said.
The US has also urged Israel to think about how a full-scale ground invasion could endanger the more than 200 hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza, the civilians who have no way out, and what comes after an invasion in terms of governance of the millions of Palestinians in the Gaza strip.
“I don’t think Israel has a strategy for what they do next” in terms of executing a full-blown ground invasion, one source familiar with concerns within the Biden administration said.
‘Use his head, not his heart’
Israel’s objectives and strategy have been a central point of discussion between American and European officials over the course of the past week, people familiar with the matter said, as the allies work to coordinate an approach to Israel.
President Joe Biden spoke Sunday with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom about the crisis, hoping to align on the key issue of supporting Israel while also gaining clarity on its path forward.
CIA director Bill Burns has been on back-to-back phone calls with partners and allies in the region, including the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, the US’ Arab partners and its NATO allies, in an effort to keep the conflict from spiraling into a regional conflagration and to work to ensure the safe release of hostages still held by Hamas.