Urban Warfare: The 2008 Battle for Sadr City
RAND ARROYO CENTER SANTA MONICA CA
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Urban warfare has long been seen as perhaps the most difficult and demanding military task. Recent history features two approaches to it. The experiences of Russian forces in Grozny and U.S. forces in Fallujah illustrate one approach. In each case, noncombatants were told to evacuate in advance of the attack and anyone left was a de facto enemy fighter. Then these geographically remote cities were, in effect, besieged and then stormed, with attacks supported by massive firepower. The result high casualties on both sides and rubbled cities. The 2008 battle for Sadr City offers a different model, in which the challenges were even more formidable than those posed by Grozny and Fallujah. Sadr City is part of Baghdad and has an estimated population of 2.4 million. Forcing noncombatants to evacuate was not an option there was nowhere for them to go. However, the approach to ridding Sadr City of Jaish al-Mahdi JAM fighters was quite different from that used in Grozny or Fallujah. The operation was essentially a wide-area security operation and focused on enemy fighters and their capabilities, rather than taking and clearing the city. Thus, the battle of Sadr City offers valuable lessons for future urban operations. The trigger for the battle was JAM s response to the Iraqi government s offensive against insurgents in Basra. JAM launched its own offensive, overrunning Government of Iraq security forces and firing rockets and mortars into the International Zone, also known as the Green Zone. In response, a U.S. Army brigade and Iraqi security forces army and police, featuring Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and Strykers, along with engineers, civil affairs, and psychological operations personnel and other support troops, took on JAM.
- Unconventional Warfare