Iraq: April 17, 2003

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Italy intends to send several thousand troops to Iraq to help keep order and assist with medical and humanitarian aid. The contingent will number between 2,500 and 3,000 troops from the army and navy, but not be assigned a combat role.

The 2d Mobile Brigade includes Army, Air Force, and Navy personnel, Engineer Corps specialists, special mine clearing and biological threat units, doctors, nurses, engineers, and technicians: 1,500 military personnel (300-400 of them carabinieri from the Tuscania Parachute Regiment) and 1,000 or so civilians. The 2nd Mobile Brigade musters two regiments from Laives (province of Bolzano) and Gorizia, as well as GIS [Special Intervention Group] commandos.

The Italians consider Baghdad's size the real problem: a metropolis with a population of 6 million and a diameter of 50 kilometers. They plan to reperimeter the city, identify the nerve centers where the main administrative departments and a number of ministries have to be made secure, then set up checkpoints. These S-shaped constructions are designed counter the suicide bomber threat. The Italians are also somewhat suspicious of the local police, figuring that "almost all of them are former Mukhabarat agents, the regime's secret service." - Adam Geibel

Small scale fighting and looting continues, particularly in cities like Baghdad and Mosul, that contain large numbers of Saddam supporters. These cities have gangs that have been seen engaging in arson (deliberately burning down prominent buildings) as well as looting.

Former Iraqi soldiers tell stories of massive desertions from army units, and American Special Forces negotiations with local tribal and religious leaders to convince the skeletal military units to formally surrender, or completely disband. The bombing campaign concentrated on buildings, bunkers and weapons, not troops. This encouraged the soldiers to desert, often followed, or preceded, by their officers.

 

The US 4th Mechanized Division has moved into Iraq and parts of it saw its first  combat with some skirmishes outside Baghdad. 



 

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