Is Baghdad Captured or Abandoned? - 9 April, 2003

The Arab satellite television network Al-Jazeera announced sensational news Wednesday that US troops had captured Baghdad. Al-Jazeera reports said US tanks were entering the city from all sides encountering no resistance whatever. Car traffic has restored in the capital, and the general cityscape would be quite peaceful if not for coalition aircraft hovering over.

However, peace has not been brought about yet, far from that. The coalition command released a statement on Wednesday morning saying it was premature to talk about an utter victory over Saddam Hussein and fierce fighting was still ahead.

This is fair enough judging by offensive reconnaissance reports as of the morning of April 7 by the US 3d mechanised division.

On that day the Iraqi command avoided large-scale urban clashes with coalition troops and preferred the pocket resistance tactics wearing out the enemy. The basic forces Saddam had built up near the capital-- the faithful National Guard and militia all numbering up to 100,000 men-- were not actively involved in the fighting.

Americans apparently gave heed to the data obtained in a tank breakthrough into the city centre on Monday. Media reports on that day said nothing about the Iraqi forces' strength. This is not surprising-- the coalition had taken care to prevent an information leak ahead of the general fighting.

According to 3d mechanised division officers who were involved in the April 7 operation, Iraq's losses reached several hundred to 1,000 men. The figures were released to reporters in the Central Command headquarters in Doha late on April 7.

This means the coalition had a strong and fighting-fit enemy.

And this enemy seems to have disappeared. This sounds like a miracle particularly against the background of the coalition command's repeated statements that all retreats from Baghdad have been cut off.

Miracles are non-existent. Al-Jazeera's reports therefore seem more likely. The TV channel said the Iraqi forces had retreated from Baghdad in the northern and north-eastern directions at night leaving screens to check US troops' advance. They were checking the enemy throughout the following morning and afternoon.

Kabul was captured according to the more or less same scenario in the autumn 2001. The Northern Alliance backed by allies easily entered the city Talibs had abandoned the day before. The move allowed the Taliban to save personnel and arms, which still give the anti-Taliban coalition contingents a lot of trouble in Afghanistan.

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