Monday, April 12, 2004

Supply lines 

Here's the most detailed report I can find on the supply line situation:
The military has been trying to regain control of supply routes after several convoys were ambushed and at least 10 truck drivers kidnapped. Nine were released, but an American -- Thomas Hamill of Macon, Miss. -- remained a captive.

On Monday, a convoy of flatbed trucks carrying M113 armored personnel carriers was attacked and burned on a road in Latifiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad. Witnesses said three people were killed...

Securing roads has now become a top priority for the military, U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Monday.
Okay, so it looks like I was right. The southern supply lines are posing a problem for US troops. Moreover, this has the marks of a deliberate attack on supply lines. You don't kidnap ten truck drivers by accident.

I noticed something interesting after staring at this map for a while. Every major road from the Gulf to the capital runs through either Nasiriyah or Kut, two cities the US has lost control of in recent days!

Fortunately, there are reports that the US has regained control of those two cities. That should help restore the southern supply routes.

I wasn't totally right, though. I underestimated the problem. There are also  supply problems in central Iraq. It doesn't look good for the marines at Fallujah:
While the Marines have not suffered significant losses in Fallujah, the 30-mile-long road behind them has fallen into the hands of Iraqi fighters.

They have made repeated attacks on convoys and even set fire to an American tank with a rocket propelled grenade. Two US soldiers have gone missing in the area.

The US has only very limited control over al-Anbar province, a vast area with a population of 1.25 million, most of them living in towns and cities on the Euphrates river.
I still think the southern supply lines could pose a bigger problem. The US didn't count on troubles with the Shiites, and probably assumed those lines were safe. There are only a few routes to the sea, and losing control of just two cities cuts them off. Once those lines are cut, the troops in Baghdad are isolated without supplies. I'm guessing some supplies could be airlifted in that case, but it would be an ugly situation.

UPDATE: One possibility that just occurred to me, in the scenario that the southern supply lines are cut, is that the US could supply troops in central Iraq from the north, via Turkey. I'm not sure how feasible this would be. It's certainly more inconvenient, given the geography. Supplies would have to be shipped through the Mediterranean, driven through Anatolia and then down into Iraq. I also don't think the military is prepared to supply troops that way. Would Turkey be okay with tanks and the like crossing its territory? It would take a certain amount of time to restructure the operation, at the very least. One has to wonder whether the Pentagon planned for this eventuality. Shiite southern Iraq might have seemed like safe territory, but a backup plan is always wise.
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