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Showdown Iraq: Guns and Ammo, Urban Warfare

Aired November 1, 2002 - 12:18   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If the U.S. goes to war with Iraq, a battle in Baghdad may be inevitable, and that means subjecting U.S. forces to the dangers of urban warfare.
Today in our "Guns and Ammo," segment, we're joined by the retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Gary Anderson, with the Potomac Institute now. He recently briefed the Pentagon on the issue of urban warfare.

Gary, thanks for joining us.

A frank question: Is the U.S. military prepared for street-to- street, house-to-house combat, if necessary, in a big city like Baghdad with millions of people there, and other major urban centers in Iraq?

COL. GARY ANDERSON, THE POTOMAC INSTITUTE: The question isn't: Are we? The question is: Will we be?

The thing that we found in our experimentation in the past few years is that if you're ready -- if you need to go to war in a big city, you need to train your troops anywhere from five to eight weeks right before you do it. And we're going to need to do that for a lot of troops if we're going to go to Baghdad.


BLITZER: When you say a lot of troops, how many troops?

ANDERSON: We recommended that about 36 infantry battalions be ready to...

BLITZER: What does that mean in terms of individuals?

ANDERSON: That's about 36,000 troops.

BLITZER: That will spend eight weeks training in an urban warfare camp, whether at Camp LeJeune or other places around the country?

ANDERSON: That's right. And quite frankly, to do that you need to clear out every urban installation in the country and go to work to do that. It's not impossible to do, but you've really got to get serious about this if you're going to do it.

BLITZER: And if there's a war, the best assessment is you can't just do it with air power. You have to worry about that worst-case contingency, not only a ground war but urban warfare.

ANDERSON: That's correct. And I think we have to be careful here not to turn urban warfare into an urban legend. You know, I think there's a little bit too much hype about how hard urban warfare is. It's hard, it's difficult, like all warfare, but it's not impossible if you're ready to do it.

BLITZER: Because a lot of our viewers remember "Black Hawk Down" in Mogadishu and what happened there, and you remember that, obviously, vividly. And it's an image that we don't like to remember.

ANDERSON: It's an image we don't like to remember, and the best way to do it is to be ready for it.

Now, one thing I want to stress is that by threatening to do urban warfare, what the Iraqi leadership is doing is they're holding their civilian population hostage. They know that the biggest reason we don't like to do urban warfare is because we don't like to kill civilians, and they're going to hide among the civilian population.

There's only one way to -- the one way we can ensure that we're going to be successful, if we do this, is to threaten them. We not only can do this, we can do it well, we can do it better than your guys, and we're going to do it.

BLITZER: As far as you know, are the troops being prepared right now for that kind of urban warfare?

ANDERSON: I understand that there's some training going on. You can never train enough. I don't know the details of it, shouldn't know the details, and if I did, I wouldn't talk about it.

But the bottom line is that the clear message that we need to send to the Iraqi leadership is, if you do this and you force us to fight in Baghdad, we're going to find you, whatever cell you're hiding in, drag you out, give you a fair trial, and hang you. And that's the leadership message we need to send.

Then the lance corporals won't fight, but we need to make sure that we show the Iraqis that we're ready to do this.

BLITZER: But any kind of war would begin with extensive air power to so-call soften up the battlefield.

ANDERSON: Theoretically, yes.

BLITZER: And as you know, during the Balkans, whether in Kosovo or in Bosnia, it was mostly air power that apparently got the job done.

ANDERSON: It's a little bit different in the urban terrain, because it's a little harder to get at discrete targets with air power, and a little bit harder to deal with situations where you've got a lot of civilians present.

So, eventually, you're going to need boots on the ground, you're going to need troops. Air power can help.

BLITZER: All right, Gary Anderson, retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, thanks for your expertise.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.


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