Friday, January 09, 2004


US marines anger army over Iraq tactics
By Robin Gedye
(Filed: 08/01/2004)

The US Marine Corps has angered the American army by suggesting that it could do a better job in Iraq than the soldiers already on the ground.

An internal document leaked yesterday showed that the "Corps", not renowned for its subtlety in warfare, is emphasising restraint in the use of force, cultural sensitivity and a public message that it does not belong to the army.

Some army officers are angry that the document, seen by the Washington Post, has broken an unwritten military code by implying that a replacement unit or force could do a better job than the one it is relieving.

The marines are preparing to patrol the volatile Sunni Triangle area of western Iraq, currently occupied by the 82nd Airborne Division, and due to take over by the end of next month.

Maj-Gen James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, said he planned to lead a two-pronged effort in an area that has proved by far the most hostile towards coalition forces.

While targeting insurgents who attack marines, he intends to run a campaign that will reduce support for terrorists among Iraqis.

In what is, at the very least, a recognition that US military tactics in Iraq have been heavy-handed, marine officers said they intended to use heavy weapons and bombs only as a last resort.

Air strikes and artillery have sometimes been deployed by the army to intimidate the population before ground troops move in for searches.

Marines, who will be taught a few words of Arabic, will be encouraged to interact with the local population, counselled on religious etiquette and forbidden from wearing sunglasses when talking to Iraqis.

In a tactic used by marines in Vietnam, platoons will live in Sunni towns and villages to train Iraqi police.

• In a goodwill gesture, the US-led administration in Baghdad is to free 500 prisoners detained as low-level security threats, with the first batch released today.

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External links

Marines to offer new tactics in Iraq [7 Jan '04] - Washington Post

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Marines to Employ New Tactics in Iraq, Report Says

Wednesday, January 07, 2004 2:10 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Marines who will soon take over occupying much of western Iraq from the U.S. Army are planning tactics that include a reduced use of force, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Citing an internal Marine document and interviews with senior officers, the report said the working plan for Marines moving into the Sunni Triangle emphasizes cultural sensitivity and a public message that the new troops aren't from the Army.

Maj. Gen. James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, California, told the Post he plans to lead a two-pronged effort.

The first involves capturing or killing insurgents who attack Marines as part of opposition to their presence in Iraq.

The other part of the plan is to diminish support for the insurgents among the Iraqi population.

The Sunni Triangle, north and west of Baghdad, has been where most attacks on U.S. troops have occurred over the past six months. The western part of the Sunni Triangle is seen by many in the Army as the toughest ground in Iraq, the Post reported.

Marines deployed in the region will be taught some Arabic, counseled on religious etiquette and ordered never to wear sunglasses when talking to Iraqis as part of a plan to show respect for the local population, according to the newspaper.

The Marine planning document said that -- as in Vietnam -- platoons will live among the people in many of the occupied towns and villages to facilitate training of the Iraqi police and civil defense forces, the Post reported.

Army officers and other military professionals who have seen the document summarizing the Marines' approach viewed it as an implicit criticism of the Army's tactics and results in the Sunni heartland, The Post said.

According to the article, some called it unfair and ill-advised second-guessing, but others viewed it as a constructive attempt to learn from the hardships and mistakes of the Army in western Iraq.

The Post reported that the commander of the Marine Corps force scheduled to deploy soon to Iraq said he does not see the Marine approach as a criticism of the Army.

Rather, Maj. Gen. Mattis said, in a telephone interview, the planning document reflects intense discussions and "the free competition of ideas in the world," according to the newspaper.

The document was a summary of points made at a two-day Marine planning session last month in California, the report said.

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