Tuesday, September 16, 2008
This is an article on how the Ossetian war was actually fought. I have highlighted a few bits & comments in italics. That virtually none of this has appeared in our MSM shows how poorly informed we are.
The conflict began some time after midnight on August 8. The Georgians claim that they crossed into South Ossetia in response to an Ossetian attack; even if this had been the case, then the massed Georgian forces had been waiting for just such an opportunity - given their carefully prepared plans (see below).
The precise sequence of events here diverges based on whom one asks; the Georgians maintain that they first attempted to rush Tskhinvali with a column of troops and tanks, while the Ossetians suggest that the artillery and rocket barrage hit the town first. Notably, the Georgian artillery was already in position to open fire on Tskhinvali at the first sign of resistance before the conflict began, and so the Ossetian version rings truer. Regardless, it is indisputable that in the dawn hours of August 8, parts of Tskhinvali were pounded by Georgian artillery and rocket launchers deployed on the heights east, south, and west of the town, while a large group of Georgians smashed their way in along the southern road. Simultaneously, at least one or two reinforced battalions of the Georgians...attempted to cut the Tskhinvali-Rok Tunnel road some 10-20 kilometers north of the town itself. Other Georgian forces fanned out to attack Ossetian villages around Tskhinvali.
Georgia's plan was, per maps and documents that were later captured by the advancing Russians, to capture Tskhinvali within the first 5-6 hours of the conflict (another reason for why I would think the artillery barrage preceded the column that went into the town, since theoretically that makes more sense than calling in massed artillery bombardments after you're already enmeshed in street battles), establish a firm roadblock north of the town, use the daylight hours of August 8 to rush through most of the remaining Ossetian territory, and present the presumably stunned and bamboozled Russians not only with a fait accompli but also with the daunting proposition of having to smash their way into South Ossetia through a blocked-off choke-point under fire from tanks and artillery. At which point, too, they would be under untold political pressure from the U.S. to keep their paws off the "Democratic (capital D) Republic of Georgia".
It was, for lack of a better description, a stunningly brilliant plan. With only a few minor problems.
Problem 1. The Ossetians themselves.
It should be noted at this point that the Ossetians as a whole are a very proud people. Martially so, as well. It is said that during World War 2, the Ossetians earned the distinction of having the highest number of Heroes of the Soviet Union per capita, out of all of the USSR's 100 plus nationalities, including the Russians themselves. [The "Hero of the Soviet Union" is the rough equivalent of the Victoria Cross or the Congressional Medal of Honor - with potentially half or more of the awards being made posthumously.] In my opinion this alone justifies Russia's action. Nations which are either honourable or intelligent will go through hell to stand by those who fought at their side, as we so abjectly failed to in Yugoslavia.
Somehow or another, it turned out that virtually all of Ossetia's armored vehicles were in "parade" mode, i.e. not battle-ready. Clear proof that neither they nor the Russians were planning war. ... This left roughly 3,000 light infantry with some marginal artillery and helicopter support. Still, this 3,000 would fight, most likely to the death, which was something the Georgian planners ought to have considered before tasking roughly two combat brigades with securing (securing!!) an area of nearly 4,000 square kilometers in under 18 hours. Even without any resistance (and believe you me, the Osseti population would most definitely attempt to resist, given the ethnic component of the conflict), this would probably have been a somewhat strenuous task, in particular given the limitations of having to move reinforcements and supplies into the region via a single not-very-wide roadway, to say nothing of Ossetia's hilly and less-than-tank-friendly terrain.
Problem 2. The plan's sheer brilliance.
Let's see. Time is of the essence. Speed is of the utmost importance. So let's send the main thrust of our attack straight into the enemy's main city....We're going to send our main column into an urban battle, granted, inside a town of 20,000 rather than a large city like Stalingrad. Still, narrow streets are bottlenecks and deathtraps to armored vehicles no matter what the scale.
Problem 2.5 - the brilliance continues.
On top of everything said above, the Georgians also had to devise a way of dealing with the 500 Russian peacekeepers deployed in South Ossetia. So what did they decide? Bypass and isolate? No no - surround and assault! Presumably hoping that only a portion of a single combat brigade would suffice to overrun a full battalion of albeit lightly-armed (assault rifles, machine-guns, a few RPGs, a couple of BMP IFVs) peacekeepers while the rest of the force could proceed to subjugate South Ossetia while sticking to the Brilliant Master Plan's schedule.
....Any delay in the Grand Plan of Ossetian Subjugation meant that the Russians could (and did) race down the road from the Rok Tunnel and turn a would-be "fait accompli" into an actual slugfest. See Problems 1 and 2 above for potential sources of said delays.
Apparently this whole concept of the Russian 4th Air Army was not even remotely considered.
Ah. Problem number five. You see, the Georgians clearly had assumed that their brave troops, trained by equally brave Western advisers (the U.S., Britain, Turkey - the Ukraine, even - all pitched in to one degree or another), as well as their brave officers, would actually conduct themselves with a modicum of tactical skill.
....We return to the action of August 8-9.
As mentioned previously, one way or another the Georgians barged their way into Tskhinvali while pounding the city from the heights above. Meanwhile, a second column lunged to cut the road north of Tskhinvali to the Rok Tunnel.
The Ossetians were not idiots. They expected pretty much this exact turn of events. Roughly 300 "kamikaze" light infantry remained in Tskhinvali itself, their job to keep the Georgian main column busy for as long as possible. Meanwhile, virtually every other man under arms and every functioning piece of equipment was thrown at the smaller Georgian force attempting to cut the road to the Rok Tunnel.
By midday on August 8 (or thereabouts), this smaller Georgian force (quite likely outnumbered by the Ossetians attacking it, though certainly not outgunned) was pushed back away from the north road, though the Georgians could still subject portions of it to artillery and sniper fire. In Tskhinvali, the 300 "Spartans" fought a vicious battle as the Georgians barged their way into town, nearly reaching its center before becoming bogged down in street combat. At least some of the Georgian tanks became separated from their supporting infantry, with three being destroyed in the first hours of the fighting. The total Georgian force - estimated at 3,500-4,000 men - milled about largely in the southern half of the town while artillery pounded the northern side.
The Russian peacekeepers around Tskhinvali also proved a tough nut to crack; most of the battalion's buildings and vehicles were destroyed quite quickly, however a good three quarters of the troops remained combat capable and putting up whatever resistance were possible in the face of tank and self-propelled artillery fire over open sights. Still, the battalion CO gave the order to destroy all documents and radios, clearly expecting to be overrun sooner rather than later.
In the air, the Georgians sent the occasional SU-25 flight to drop bombs on Tskhinvali or the surrounding villages. The Ossetians' one military airfield, however, remained largely unmolested, Idiots and their helicopters began raiding Georgian reinforcement columns. Thus, by some time in the afternoon on August 8, a column of 3 Georgian tanks and 8 APCs or IFVs was completely destroyed from the air as it approached the Georgian group in Tskhinvali. Field reports at this juncture indicate that the Georgians aren't following basic "air security" procedures; their vehicle columns are streaming forward with no AA protection of any kind, while their artillery and MRLS crews are piling stacks of shells and rockets right next to the guns and launchers themselves, such that one cannon burst in the general direction of the firing position was usually enough to completely obliterate the gun or launcher and its crew. At the same time, reports also surfaced that the 300 "Spartans" in Tskhinvali managed to somehow trap a chunk of the Georgian force in the town, and had even captured a few of their BMPs and one Humvee (suggesting that the Georgian soldiers had fled rather than put up a fight against an outnumbered and outgunned enemy). The announcement of a captured Hummer drives the Russian general public (as represented by Internet postings of all shapes and sizes) even more up a wall than it had already been. Of course, the "Spartans" are pretty jumpy - the 3 UH-1s beloging to the Ossetians seem to all be shot down by friendly fire from the captured BMPs (who, in turn, had thought that these were Georgian attack helos making a run).
By around 1400-1500 hours local time, the Russian 19th Motor Rifle Division - mobilized that morning - begins to rush through the Rok Tunnel and south towards Tskhinvali. The delay took place partly because it took until morning to determine that this was a full-scale Georgian attack rather than just an especially powerful raid - and because the UN meetings called at Russia's behest could not meet much earlier. By this time, of course, Russian television channels were broadcasting full-on images of frightened Ossetian civilians fleeing the area or digging themselves out from under the rubble of Tskhinvali, crying into the camera about lost loved ones and begging for help. How I love effective TV blitzes...And how I love the fact that our media can be trusted not to let us see pictures which were clearly available to them
At any rate, by late afternoon on August 8, the Russians engaged the Georgians, first linking up with the Ossetian troops on the northern road and detaching a force to contain the smaller Georgian column, and then pushing into the northern outskirts of Tskhinvali itself. Meanwhile, Russian aircraft and helicopters - plus artillery detachments - began counterbattery fire against the heights around Tskhinvali, although this was not extremely successful.
By midday on August 9, the situation in South Ossetia had changed dramatically. Russian and Ossetian troops surrounded and began to reduce the Georgian pocket in the north, as well as a portion of the Georgian troops in Tskhinvali proper. Meanwhile, the first Russian reinforcements reached the peacekeeper battalion further south, and Russian artillery and aircraft continued to pound the heights around the city. Georgian reinforcement columns were also vigorously attacked.
The Georgian troops from the main column - those who had not been trapped in Tskhinvali, at least - began their retreat almost as soon as they saw the Russians entering the town. Certainly some detachments stood and fought, but the majority went back to their "second line" positions to regroup. During the night, the artillery duel continued, and by the morning of August 9 several Georgian tank and infantry attacks had been launched to reach both the trapped Georgian detachments (the one in Tskhinvali and the one alongside the road north); these proved unsuccessful, with the Georgians losing 12 tanks in one attack on Tskhinvali proper. The Georgian government began to move reserves into position, although reports indicate that by this time, the bulk of these were "reservists" who did not have much fight in them. Some ethnic Georgians also began to flee South Ossetia, fearful of reprisals (justifiably so). All throughout, detachments of Georgian troops that had fanned out to the villages on either side of Tskhinvali continued to raze them to the ground with tanks and artillery; mass executions of the civilian populations were reported but not independently confirmed.
On August 10, the main Russian forces were still semi-stuck around Tskhinvali, trying to push the Georgians off the heights while reducing the pockets of resistance in the town proper. The Ossetian troops by now were largely moved to help with securing Tskhinvali and with escorting refugees out of the city and the surrounding areas. In addition to the 19th Motor Rifle Division, several Paratrooper detachments (from the 58th Air Assault Division, I believe) were arriving by aircraft while Russian marines landed in Abkhazia, ostensibly to support the Russian peacekeepers there. Other 58th Army units were also streaming into the area, as were the two Chechen battalions (whose arrival was a welcome surprise some time around the morning of August 10) Certainly a surprise if you believe what we are told about the Chechens being held in Russia by force. The Chechen battalions quickly managed to capture enough Georgian BMPs to ferry themselves about and launched an attack towards Gori, which ran into a massive Georgian ambush that caused few casualties but took most of the day to resolve.
By this juncture, the 4th Air Army had had enough and began to bomb and strafe airfields in Georgia proper while also patrolling the skies with Su-27 fighters. Reports of solitary Georgian Su-25 aircraft ineffectually strafing Ossetian and Russian positions continued through August 11, however these may have been able to sneak in "through" the overall aircraft traffic in the region (given that both sides were relying primarily on Su-25s for ground attack mission at this point, not entirely surprising); it is at this juncture that the Russians discover, to their considerable displeasure, that the Georgians are fielding next-generation SA-11 SAMs (one of which brought down a Tu-22 bomber flying a reconnaissance mission, although the crew was, apparently, extricated one way or another). These are presumably hunted down and suppressed over the next couple of days, together with their (presumably Ukrainian - because the Georgian army simply did not have any qualified or "trained-up" personnel to use these systems) crews, as well as any other air defenses in the region, but the Russians still lose about a half-dozen birds in the process. Nevertheless, massive strafing of Georgian reinforcements continues.
....By August 11, the Georgian army in South Ossetia is completely and thoroughly routed; its artillery and heavy equipment blown away or abandoned, its troops suffering massive casualties from air and artillery attacks. The pockets in Tskhinvali and along the northern road pretty much cease all resistance, though to date there is no word on prisoners. The Georgians' two combat brigades thrown into the assault at the start effectively cease to exist, while the remaining army and reservists - those who were back in Georgia or had managed to escape to Gori - continue fleeing. The remaining Georgian regular army is pulled back to protect Tbilisi itself, while most Georgian military installations are being abandoned; the brigade that had been stationed in Iraq is being flown back in (reportedly in U.S. transport aircraft), however it, too, is positioned primarily to defend Tbilisi against a Russian strike.
Meanwhile, the Russians continue to push south, as do the Abkhazi. The latter clear out the Georgian defenses (and 11 villages) on the southern side of the Kodori Gorge and dig in against any counter-assault. The Russians launch a full-scale air and sea bombardment of just about any military structure or facility in Georgia - the port facilities of Poti are damaged (though not Batumi - which is a city not of ethnic Georgians but of a recently-"pacified" pro-Russian Adjari minority); Russian aircraft blow up the military depots in Gori (the secondary explosions from which damage the surrounding civilian buildings, which are then showcased in CNN and BBC reports on the subject of "Russian airstrikes against innocent civilians" I remember film of this ); Russian troops move towards Gori and Sugdidi. Georgians are leaving Tbilisi to the east, hoping to escape to a somewhat-more friendly Azerbaijan.
Conclusion of combat operations.
By August 11-12, it was only a matter of when a cease-fire would be signed, and on what terms. The terms, essentially, were dictated by the Russians. Militarily speaking, the Russians continued to bomb, shell and otherwise attack Georgian military infrastructure; moreover, Russian platoon- and company-sized detachments race towards now largely-abandoned Georgian military basis, e.g. the one in Gori, and proceed to methodically destroy or dismantle any piece of military or other equipment therein. This process was ongoing through at least August 14-15 if not later, prompting Western cries about "Russian occupation". Radar installations, ammunition depots, armored vehicles - everything was and is being either destroyed or "appropriated for the benefit of the Russian state", while the Georgian military is reduced to a collection of regulars and reservists, largely in the form of light infantry with few remaining vehicles. The Georgian Navy and Air Force, such as they are, have apparently ceased to exist by this juncture. While there is no word on Georgian military or civilian casualties, at least the former can be estimated at upwards of several thousand. Russian losses through August 11-12 are comprised of 70-75 KIA, 19 MIA, and roughly 190-200 WIA; these totals include 15 KIA and more than 100 WIA from the Georgian initial atack on the peacekeeper battalion. Russian tank and equipment losses are less well-known, but are probably in single digits in all categories; those of the Georgians are probably pushing 75%-100% of all units of a given type.
.....The 4th Air Army, in fact, underperformed, given that, at least on paper, it should have shut down all Georgian air traffic on the first day of fighting, not on the third or thereabouts. Although here one does not know precisely when the rules of engagement were revised to allow it to strike into Georgia proper evidence the Russians were endangering themselves minimise the fighting
....The Russians did quite well, given the logistical constraints (e.g. one road leading into the region). STRATFOR, in fact, came out with a report where it professed amazement at the rapidity and extreme effectiveness of the Russian counter-assault.
....Throwing everything you have, effectively, on a gamble like this, bespeaks strategic foolishness of the extreme kind. Especially if your closest friend and ally (represented by Condi Rice) told you, to your face, to step off about three weeks before you got started. The one point in the US favour. I had found it impossible to believe our MSM when they said the Americans weren't behind this, particulalry when Putin popped up with a US passport found among Georgian baggage. I find this article more credible than all our MSM put together....The Americans, on the other hand, were far too surprised to make me congratulate them. They clearly seemed to be in shock to see the Georgians actually launch the operation; and were in an even greater shock at the Russian response. Somebody at the State Department - or the CIA, or the Pentagon, or all of the above - seems to be operating under the assumption that this is still the 1990s