The Task Ahead
Ridding the country of the regime.


The Iraqi regime has lost control of Baghdad. They are reported to still offer isolated pockets of resistance and perhaps a major effort in selected neighborhoods.

Attention in Baghdad will now focus on completing the liberation of the city and stabilizing the situation.

While regime control of Baghdad is crumbling, the military’s tasks are far from over. The secretary of defense laid out a major “to do” list for Coalition forces for the remainder of the war. In addition to completing the military job in Baghdad, he wants to see an accounting for the Iraqi leadership, findings and freeing of Coalition POWs, securing of WMD, killing or capturing of terrorists, capture of the Baath-party leadership and other elements of regime control, and establishment of an interim Iraqi authority. The secretary also discussed the resolution of long-standing humanitarian problems — food, water, shelter, and medical care.

Operations in Northern Iraq, greatly enabled by on-going cooperation between Coalition special-operation forces and Kurdish forces, will seek to defeat Iraqi forces in Mosul, Kirkuk (and surround oil regions), and Tirkit. These efforts, in combination with prudent applications of precision airpower (a la Afghanistan), have tied down many Iraqi forces and made significant military progress in the region. With few embedded reporters broadcasting from this region, and with significant media attention on the drive from the south to Baghdad, Coalition efforts in this area have received less credit and attention than deserved. The Kurds are tough, highly motivated, effective forces.

There are reports that Coalition tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles have been airlifted into northern Iraq by American C-17 airlift aircraft, adding both combat punch and lethal mobility to Coalition forces. There are official estimates of a brigade of Republican Guard Infantry and 10 Divisions of regular Iraqi forces in the region north of Baghdad. Many of these are likely to fade away.

Syria’s assistance to Iraq will likely dry up as Coalition forces reinforce operations in the north. Hopefully, the Turks will keep their noses on their side of the border — added complications are not needed.

Many Arab news sources are apparently shocked at the relative lack of Iraqi resistance to Coalition gains, and are asking where are the RG and special RG forces. Some Arab military sources are suggesting that at least some military commanders were bribed or otherwise convinced not to fight. One suspects that 15,000-plus precision weapons and a nasty pincer movement by Coalition Army and Marine forces played heavily in that equation.

The sight of the U.S. Marine placing a flag over the face of the statue of Hussein in Paradise Square in downtown Baghdad was history in the making, somewhat spoiled by reported concerns that the Arab street would not like it. Surely that Marine will face no disciplinary action for his exuberance.

We should not have been surprised that the Marines entering Baghdad were fired on from Baghdad University. The desperate Iraqi militia were setting up headquarters and firing sites at schools, hospitals, and mosques. We also should not be surprised to learn that the children of the regime elite are those who were allowed to attend the university. There are few safe places in Baghdad just yet.

— Charles E. Miller is a retired Air Force colonel.