Fallujah, also known as Falluja or Al-Fallujah, is a city in central Iraq. This city is Sunni Arab-dominated and served as a haven for insurgents. The Second Battle of Fallujah happened a few months after the first one took place. United Nations Security Council passed a resolution aiming for disarmament, all the while involving the international community to take part. With the resistance and insurgency rising, it birthed the Second Battle of Fallujah, where the US-led coalition accused Iraq of noncompliance with the disarmament clause from the Council.
The Battle is Bloodier the Second Time Around
The Second Battle of Fallujah in November 2004 was the bloodiest and most ferocious one since Vietnam’s Battle of Hue, according to Tim Dyhouse and Tina Clark of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Thousands of casualties were reported in what was known as the ‘‘Çity of Mosques.’’
Now, remember that this is a city where the presence of civilians was to be considered. But like many war stories, innocent casualties were to be somehow expected and inevitable, regardless of how much the battle was carefully planned and obedience to the principles of war.
Fallujah is a desert metropolis, loved by insurgents and considered a ‘haven’ and setting for one of the most violent urban battles in history.
Almost Like a Staged Battle
Purely looking at how the planning was done, the Second Battle of Fallujah was impressive.
Months of preparation and groundwork were key ingredients. Taking the lessons from the first battle, the troops, led by Lieutenant General John F. Sattler and Major General Richard F. Natonski, did everything they could to prove their might and take charge.
In an article by Kennedy Hickman from ThoughtCo, he cited some of the preparations made by the US Marines prior to the battle breaking out.
The first step was to surround the enemy with their forces, trapping them inside an area and ensuring no one would get away.
Second, evacuate the innocent civilians. The city was bombed with leaflets telling civilians that US forces were coming to take the city and to evacuate by an open route by a certain date. Beyond that date, they would be considered combatants and would be treated as such.
But of course, the months of preparation gave the insurgents time to prepare too. They tried to turn every house and apartment building into a fortress and laid IEDs everywhere they could. The many mosques in the city served as their ‘meeting places’ and weapons storage, believing that Coalition forces would not bomb them.
How ironic is that? The house of God becomes a house of weapons.
With some intel, the expectation was for the coalition to attack from the south and southeast. But the US Marines knew better than to attack from the expected direction and launched diversionary attacks instead to mask the actual main attack coming from the North.
The Second Battle of Fallujah involved weeding out the insurgents from the city, house-by-house, and building my building. Aerial strikes and street fighting dominated during this time. With the assistance of troops from the US, British, and other coalition units, they were able to take control of some of the insurgents’ positions, like the main train station and a highway that bisected the city.
The Marines are specially trained in urban warfare and were able to advance to the center of the city in just a single day. In contrast to the bloody and lengthy siege going on in Mariupol right now, it took the Marines and supporting elements from the Army, Navy, Iraqi security forces, and the British just 9 days to subdue a city that once had 300,000 inhabitants. The cost to coalition forces was just over 100 dead and about 800 wounded. For the insurgents the cost was much higher, 1,200-1500 killed and 1,500 captured or surrendered.
Only One of Many
Even after the Second Battle of Fallujah and the fall of the insurgents in the city and its return to Iraqi government control the insurgents remained active, finding new places to nest in a growing civil war.
At least, the coalition was able to achieve its goal of engaging in this battle. In 2011, the US withdrew from Iraq with little fanfare leaving behind a government increasingly under the control of Iran.