The second battle of Fallujah was “code named” Operation Phantom Fury or Operation Al-Fjr. This war involved American, British and Iraqi states in November and December, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. The war of Fallujah was reported to have been the worst in the history of the US due to the nature of armory used, loss of human lives and destruction of physical infrastructure.
The battle of Fallujah was fought solely against insurgents and militia rather than the forces of Sadam’s regime. This war’s aim was to put an end to the control of the city of Fallujah by enemy insurgents and also to capture the leader of insurgents, Abu Musab Al- Zarqawi (Ross n.d)i.
The unified army realized success in the battle field due to the wise and skilled leadership of Richard Natonski who was head of the United States Marine Corps. LTG Richard Natonski was a retired veteran who specialized in war tactics especially those used in the Middle East by Arab militia and insurgents.
His expertise and knowledge provided the techniques necessary for the winning of the bloody second war of Fallujah. His techniques in war enable him to gather intelligence information of what the enemies were planning to do including the nature of their preparations.
The first battle of Fallujah had been waged in April, 2004 to eliminate the insurgent elements that had killed the Black Water Security team and also reclaim Fallujah from the control of enemy combatants. The state of Iraq wanted the city of Fallujah to be controlled by the citizens of Iraq. The war ended but the civilians of Iraq were not successful in keeping the insurgents away.
By September, the number of insurgents had grown to five thousand and the city was once put under militia control. (Karon n.d)ii.The combat tactics used in the first war were successful but they did not ensure the control of the city. The decisions made during the first war of Fallujah made the city even more vulnerable to insurgents and within a short period, insurgents had secured the city again.
The decisive tactical decisions made by LTG Natonski ensured that the insurgents were permanently eliminated and the city was recaptured and maintained by the coalition forces.
A significant correlation exists between effective and efficient war strategies and positive outcomes which include winning a war as evidenced by the techniques employed General Natonski in the war of Fallujah.
Analysis of lieutenant General Natonski’s performance in the winning of The Second War of Fallujah
LTG Richard Natonski had served in the military since 1973. He was appointed as an observer in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in the Middle East. He served as a commander of the Marine Expedition Unit in Kuwait. He was the commander of the 2nd Marine Expedition Brigade in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and fought in the Battle of Nasiriyah in 2003.
These deployments into the Middle East gave him a clear interpretation of the combat tactics employed by Arab insurgents. This fact made him learn their strengths and weaknesses and how to take advantage of the enemies’ weaknesses. Natonski had also learnt new combat tactics that he could use in war to conquer and out do the techniques employed by the insurgents (Ross n.d)iii . LTG Natonski used a combat diversion tactic that distracted the insurgents from a coordinated attack.
One of the battalion troops, Regimental Combat Teams (RCT) 1 had settled in the North of the city of Fallujah and this gave the enemy combatants and jihadist fighters an impression that the coalition forces were planning an imminent attack from the South. The other troops surrounded the city with the assistance of the Black Watch Battalion.
The rest of the battalions attacked the city of Fallujah from the West and North where they captured and secured the villages along the River Euphrates and also the Jurf Kas Sukr Bridge. This distraction combat technique was commanded by the LTG Nantonski. He knew that the insurgents had fully prepared for the battle from the North therefore exposing their other points of vulnerability.
His intelligence was supported by use of overhead imagery and unmanned aerial vehicles that showed the training activities of the insurgents using live ammunitions and also the layout of their offensive and attack strategies. The LTG ordered the establishment of checkpoints to and from the city. This fact ensured that the insurgents would not flee but allowed the civilians to move out of the battle ground.
The leaders of the insurgent militia including Abu Musab Al- Zarqawi managed to escape even before the battle started. This fact however ensured that many of the insurgents would remain in the city of Fallujah. Males who had attained the “military age” who moved among the civilians as they evacuated were turned back. This aspect was executed to ensure that the insurgents would not escape.
The LTG’s mission was to deal with the insurgents so that in future, there would be no more insurgency in the area. This fact made it impossible for the militants to flee Fallujah ( Rick n.d)iv. The insurgents had grown in number and included foreign mujahedeen fighters who were Filipino, Chechen, Saudi, Iranian, Syrian, Libyan and the native Iraqis. They had sophisticated weapons like IEDs, booby traps and advanced small arms.
They learnt the combat tactics of the US military of securing roof tops and therefore, they built stairs made of bricks leading to the roofs and created paths into the kill zones. They had jersey barriers and dug trenches and tunnels as defensive techniques.
All the strategies of the insurgents were however countered by the coalitions’ 13500 troops. The troops were better equipped and were accompanied by heavy cavalry; artillery, air, support, and armored battalions which had tanks and other light armored battle vehicles.
The number of the troops was overwhelming to the insurgents and this number made it possible for the forces to surround the city and attack it from different directions (Rick n.d)v. The LTG also commanded air strikes and intense artillery barges as the first action during the first night of the battle.
These strikes reorganized, confused and spoiled the battle strategies of the insurgents but gave the Six Army, marine and Iraqi battalion protection as they invaded and attacked the city. The coalition had a platoon that provided reconnaissance and oversaw the operations to the end.
This battle tactic made attacks by the coalition forces easier and the subsequent strategies by other military battalions ensured that the insurgents were totally subdued (Bellavia n.d)vi.
The US military was known for the tactics of seizing the roof tops of high buildings so that it could gain a better view of their enemies (Schaepdrijver 2013, 13). This tactic was however not employed by the military although the enemy combatants had prepared for it and sealed all the stairwells by using bricks. This unpredictable tactic got the insurgents unaware and their preparations were derailed.
The coalition’s military arm later conducted a search in the city where they found hidden armory. They came across training sites that had literature and layouts of their combat operations, tactics and ambush sites.
By securing these cache sites, the insurgents were cut off from the supply of weapons and ammunition (Lowry 2010, 27). The literature made the insurgents’ attacks, combat techniques and tactics more predictable and this gave the coalition forces time to prepare for their counter offensive. The battalions also attacked the main train station in the city of Fallujah. The train was used as a check point for enemies.
Many of the foreign insurgents entered the city through the train stations and therefore, attacking the train stations would ensure that there would be no more reinforcements of the enemy combatants in the city and also the trapped insurgents would not also flee (Camp n.d)vii.
The participation of the Iraqi forces and the improvement of the coalition forces by local Iraqi interpreters made it easier to identify locations of insurgent strongholds (Ricks 2007, 9). The Iraqi forces knew the terrain well and had knowledge of the strongholds of the insurgents and their fighting techniques and capabilities.
The use of locals in the war made it easier since they provided information on the strengths and weak points of the insurgents. This fact gave the coalition forces an opportunity to develop a unique offensive tactic that would counter the enemy combatants and be successful.
This aspect gave them a lot of insight and interpretation of the moves of the enemy combatants (Lowry n.d)viii . Certain civilians reported that the coalition forces used unusual weapons during the war. War analysts claimed that the coalition forces used white phosphorus and MK-77 bombs that were similar to napalm (Hopkins 2009, 15). These incendiary weapons proved to be versatile and destructive to the humanity and environment.
They served as potent psychological weapons that had harmful effects on the insurgents and were used to “flush them out” of their hideouts that included bunks, trenches and spider traps. This tactic of using unusual weapons actually put fear in the enemy combatants making it easier to capture them (Camp n.d)ix. All these decisive tactics employed by Nantonski led to the recapture of Fallujah.
This aspect was necessitated by good leadership shown through the various ranks of the coalition forces. These commands came from LTG Richard Natonski.
Outcome of the Second Battle of Fallujah
The intensity of the fighting ended after nine days of battle which was the 13th of November. The coalition forces lost over a hundred soldiers and more than six hundred others survived but sustained gun wounds.
The estimation of the enemy combatants killed varied since there was no accurate number of the total insurgents during the beginning of the war. Estimates showed that more than 1400 insurgents were killed and about 1300 of them were taken captive.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also estimated that about 800 civilians were also killed in the process. The operation also displaced about 200,000 civilians who went to live elsewhere in Iraq (Ricks n.d)x.
The Second Battle of Fallujah however proved to be less challenging than the kind of engagement that the coalition forces had been expecting. Most of the foreign combatants, mujahedeen fighters and jihad foreign fighters were believed to have fled the city of Fallujah before the commencement of the military assault along with the leaders of the militias leaving only the native Iraqi fighters behind.
The mission’s objective was to kill or capture all enemy combatants so that future insurgency would not occur again. The insurgency included foreign fighters who ultimately fled and the local fighters were the ones who were killed and captured. The tactic of establishing checkpoints to ensure that the militants were trapped in the city was therefore not as effective as expected (Camp n.d)xi.
Given that the war of Fallujah was considered as the most deadly and bloodiest combat in history, the number of deaths from both parties was expected to be higher than other battles ever fought. This aspect was however not experienced in the case of this battle.
The coalition forces experienced a very small number of deaths than expected and this was possible due to the use of decisive tactics used in the offensive combat (Ricks n.d)xii. The mission command ensured minimum causalities from the coalitions’ forces but maximum destruction of the enemy combatants (Connolly 2013, 23).
This fact however also led to destruction of infrastructure, loss of basic amenities like power and water and also civilians’ lives were lost.
Tactical combat by use of modern combat technologies both at sea, land and air and also the use of counter measures like traps and other explosives usually served to limit the extent of force projection and aggression. The success of a battle or war was measured by the attainment of the battle’s objectives and sustainability of the intended goal (Bellavia 2008, 12).
The significance of this analysis was to conceptualize tactical decisions and strategies that were employed in winning this war and the fact that the strategies can also be applied elsewhere if a similar situation may occur in future.
The role played by LTG Richard Natonski in commanding the coalition battalions was vital because his knowledge of combat tactics and that of the insurgents in the Middle East made it easier for him to come up with tactics that could work to his advantage.
In reality, the combat techniques used during the war by the coalition forces gave them an advantage over the insurgents. The war tactics that Nantonski used served to avert the loss of many lives of civilians and the military.
The strategies helped in ending the war in a fast way because they were effective and efficient. The extent of the war did not cause a lot of damage to the infrastructure thanks to Nantonski’s familiarity with war techniques. The evaluation of the war of Fallujah shows that tactical advantage is better than deployment of massive military force.
Bellavia, David. House to House: A Tale of Modern War. New York City, USA: Pocket Books, 2008.
Connolly, James. “Mauvaise Conduite: Complicity and compatibility in the occupied Nord, 1914-1918.”Journal of War Studies 4, no.1 (2013), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19475020.2012.761382?journalCode=rfww20 .
Hopkins, Burke. An Introduction to Criminological Theory (3rd ed), Gloucester, UK: Willan Publishing, 2009.
Lowry, Richard. New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah. California, USA: Savas Beatie 2010.
Ricks, Thomas. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Westminster, UK: Penguin, 2007.
Schaepdrijver, Sophie. “Military occupation, political imaginations, and the First World War.” Journal of World War Studies 4, no.1 (2013).
- Ross Brian (@brianross) (24 September 2004). “Tracking Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi”. ABC News. Retrieved
- Karon, Tony (8 November 2004). “The Grim Calculation of Retaking Fallujah”. Time. Retrieved
- Ross i
- Ricks, Thomas E. (2007). Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003–2005. Penguin. (2007). pp. 343–346. ISBN 0-14-303891-5
- Refer to iv
- Bellavia, David House to House: A Tale of Modern War. Pocket Books (2008). p. 336. ISBN 1-84739-118-4
- Dick Camp Operation Phantom Fury: The Assault and Capture of Fallujah, Iraq, (2009) (ISBN 978-0-7603-3698-4)
- Lowry, Richard S. New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah. Savas Beatie (2010). p. 20. ISBN 1-932714-77-4
- Refer to Dick Camp
- Refer to Dick Camp
- Refer to Dick Camp
- Refer to Rick Thomas