The Second Battle of Fallujah was the deadliest war that took place during the Iraq War, which occurred in 2004. What led to the Second Battle of Fallujah was the unsuccessful First Battle of Fallujah, which strengthened the insurgents who sought refuge in Fallujah and made it their stronghold during the Iraq War. The insurgents had dominated the city and started attacking American soldiers.
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Brutal killings of Blackwater soldiers prompted the United States military to launch an offensive attack on Fallujah city. According to the United States secretary of defense, the brutal killings provided an opportunity for the United States army “…to push the Sunnis on the Governing Council to step forward and condemn this attack, and we will remember those who do not. It is time for them to choose.
They are either with us or against us.”1 To capture the city of Fallujah, the combined forces of the United States, British, and Iraqi soldiers employed an effective battle command. Therefore, this essay analyzes the battle command that General Natonski employed when he mobilized soldiers to conquer the insurgents and capture the city of Fallujah during the Second Battle of Fallujah.
Leading a great army is a huge task that requires advanced leadership skills of commanders. What made the Second Battle of Fallujah successful was the ability of General Natonski to lead his troops throughout the offensive attack. Since the insurgents had taken over Fallujah, they used it as their fortified base where they could launch attacks against the American soldiers and their allies from Iraq and Britain.
Hence, combined leadership of British, Iraqi, and American armies was significant as it contributed to the successfulness of the Second Battle of Fallujah. Under General Natonski, “Sergeant Pennell displayed unyielding personal courage while leading his attacking squad through sustained high intensity combat in southern Fallujah.”2
Effective leadership of different troops enabled the United States, British, and Iraqi soldiers to conquer the insurgents in Fallujah.
Applications of the same strategies on different troops of soldiers who attacked Fallujah from different points involved great leadership skills. When the insurgents dominated Fallujah and started attacking American soldiers, it was difficult for American soldiers alone to conduct the offensive battle. The combined force of Iraqi, British and the United States army provided a strong army that the insurgents could not conquer.
Since diverse troops of soldiers had a common enemy, they shared combat strategies. Leadership enhances organization among soldiers as it causes feelings, values, attitudes, and behaviors to integrate, and thus “create a system of processes facilitated by tools.”3 Thus, the organization that the combined forces displayed at the Second Battle of Fallujah weakened the insurgents and eventually led to their utter defeat.
Before embarking on the offensive battle, commanders and soldiers need to have an understanding of the environment under which they operate. American and British soldiers were unfamiliar with the Fallujah and its environment, and thus they took ample time trying to understand the operational environment. To understand the operation environment, General Natonski drew maps that aided in location of the insurgents in the city.
Additionally, understanding of the terrain was also necessary so that soldiers could plan on how to navigate through as they advanced to Fallujah.
“Through collaboration and dialogue, knowledge sharing enables an understanding of the operational environment, problems to be solved, and approaches to solving them.”4 Collaboration that existed among different troops of soldiers indicated that they had an understanding of their roles and environment.
Understanding the nature of the enemy is an important role of a commander and soldiers. Prior to the commencement of the Second Battle of Fallujah, General Natonski ensured that he understood the number of insurgents and their advancement in weaponry.
The combined armies had estimated that insurgents in the city were about 5000. The figure enabled the commanders and soldiers to determine the effective force that could overcome the insurgents.
According to the United States Army, “nearly one million tons of arms and ammunition had been stockpiled around the country, in mostly unguarded facilities, free for taking.”5 Such knowledge enhanced understanding of the enemy and promoted effective preparation for the combat.
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Commanders should have a visualizing ability when designing operation process. As different processes of operation exist, commanders should visualize and determine an effective process.
“Army forces combine offensive, defensive, and stability or civil-support operations simultaneously as part of an interdependent joint force to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative, accepting prudent risk to create opportunities to achieve decisive results.”6
In the Second Battle of Fallujah, General Natonski mainly employed offensive battle as the insurgents became defensive in the city. Since the insurgents terrorized Americans and their allies, General Natonski saw that offensive battle was essential to exterminate the insurgents in Fallujah and across Iraq.
Before embarking on offensive battle, General Natonski visualized the impact of the battle on the civilians. The insurgents were using civilians as their shield, and thus making it hard for General Natonski to launch an offensive attack without killing innocent civilians.
The combined forces conducted civil support where they assisted civilians to move out of the combat zone to safer places while leaving the insurgents alone in the city.7
General Natonski also visualized that he needed to prevent the insurgents from escaping. Hence, the combined forces created strategic checkpoints where they could only allow innocent civilians to move out of Fallujah and its surroundings.
The preliminary task of the commanders in leading soldier is to understand and visualize the problems and their potential solutions, and then describe them to the soldiers. For soldiers to accomplish a given offensive attack, they need to comprehend the magnitude of the problems and estimate the efforts that they require to resolve them.
In Fallujah, the insurgents had prepared well to counter the offensive attack by the combined forces by building bankers, setting obstacles, putting roadblocks, burying mines, and acquiring sophisticated weapons.8
In this view, General Natonski had to describe the impending challenges that the combined soldiers were to face during the ambush so that they could take necessary precautions and reduce the occurrence of unnecessary deaths.
Given the impending dangers, General Natonski had to describe how the offensive attack would take place. General Natonski described coordinated attacks by providing extensive description of the plan and command line that soldiers followed without undue confusion. Before commencing a battle, commanders need to describe resources, space, and time, which are necessary for the battle to be successful.9
Underestimation of resources and time is quite dangerous because it increases the vulnerability of soldiers. Given the successfulness of the Second Battle of Fallujah, General Natonski was able to provide an effective description of the battle, which enabled soldiers to take their critical roles effectively.
Directing soldiers to undertake an offensive battle is quite challenging because enemies usually take offensive positions. The ability of a commander to direct armies to follow a given plan of attack and a command line is an integral part of an offensive battle. Since insurgents were ready for the offensive battle, they took a defensive stance. In directing armies, General Natonski designed a way of approaching the city.
Different troops of soldiers approached Fallujah from different directions while communicating amongst themselves regarding their advancement into the city.10 General Natonski planned such a coordinated movement to prevent the insurgents from escaping, and thus enhanced their extermination within the city.
Additionally, General Natonski employed intelligence in directing his troops as they advanced into the city. Continued supply of intelligent information enabled soldiers to update their offensive strategies according to the tactics that the insurgents used.
The intelligence “created a loop in which the information gathered during one operation led to a new operation, and the information provided new intelligence for the next one.”11 Whenever the combined forces got the intelligent information, they acted on it promptly, and thus advanced their attacks towards the city without giving the insurgents ample time to counteract their attacks.
Assessing the progression of an offensive battle helps in overcoming new challenges that usually emerge in the course of the battle. To determine if a battle command is effective, commanders should continually perform an assessment of various conditions in an operation.
“Assessment is continuous because it includes monitoring the current situation and progress towards accomplishing those objectives” of an operation.12 The assessment of the battle enables commanders to modify their orders and plans to suit the prevailing conditions of war and overcome tactics that enemies employ.
In the Second Battle of Fallujah, it is evident that General Natonski performed continuous assessment of the offensive attack. Every step that the forces took involved operational planning and caution because the insurgents had taken an offensive stance where they prevented the combined forces from entering into the city.
“Commanders achieve decisive results through the effective combination and balance of offensive, defensive, and stability operations across the entire width and depth of their operations.” Whenever they experienced attacks, General Natonski redesigned his operation and issued different orders with a view of balancing offensive and defensive attacks, as well as stabilizing operations.
Although the Second Battle of Fallujah was the deadliest battle in the Iraq War, the combined forces of British, Iraqi, and the United States troops managed to defeat the insurgents.
The defeat was possible because the battle command that General Natonski applied in the battle was effective since he used various strategies in launching an offensive battle. Hence, the Second Battle of Fallujah provides valuable lessons that soldiers need to apply in undertaking any offensive battles.
Camp, Dick. Operations Fury: The Assault and Capture of Fallujah, Iraq. New York: Zenith Imprint, 2009.
Department of the Army. “Knowledge Management Operations.” Field Manual (16 July 2012): 1-82. Accessed from https://armypubs.army.mil/
Lowry, Richard. New Dawn: The battles for Fallujah. New York: Casemate Publishers, 2007.
Williams, Wallace. “FM-0 Operations: The Army’s Blueprint.” Military Review 88, no. 2 (2008): 2-17.
1 Dick Camp. Operations Fury: The Assault and Capture of Fallujah, Iraq (New York: Zenith Imprint, 2009), 6.
2 Richard Lowry. New Dawn: The battles for Fallujah (New York: Casemate Publishers, 2007), 321.
3 Department of the Army. “Knowledge Management Operations.” Field Manual (16 July 2012):1-82.
4 Department of the Army. (16 July 2012), 11
5 Richard Lowry. (2009), 20.
6 Wallace Williams. “FM-0 Operations: The Army’s Blueprint.” Military Review 88, no. 2 (2008): 4.
7 Dick Camp. (2009), 170.
8 Richard Lowry. (2009), 20.
9 Wallace Williams. (2008), 5
10 Dick Camp. (2009), 123.
11 Richard Lowry. (2009), 60.
12 Department of the Army. (16 July 2012), 31.