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26 septembre 2002 — Sempiternelle question, — dans tous les cas qui devrait l'être pour qui veut rester sérieux : les Américains ont-ils les capacités de faire la guerre qu'ils prétendent faire ? On sait que ce sujet nous intéresse particulièrement et que nous l'avons traiter dans plusieurs textes (voir notamment notre Analyse du 25 mai 2002 et notre Faits & Commentaires du 5 août 2002).
De nouvelles indications montrent la persistance des supputations, voire d'informations parcellaires sur cette question des moyens militaires américains, et principalement de leurs grandes difficultés. Nous en signalons deux.
Un article de World Tribune.com en date du 24 septembre confirme les difficultés américaines mais ajoute l'élément nouveau, très psychologique autant que “réel”, de cet exercice simulé gigantesque, le Millenium Challenge, qui prenait en compte l'état des forces US à cause de l'Afghanistan, et qui aurait convaincu les militaires américaines de freiner encore plus pour l'Irak, à cause de l'état d'impréparation de leurs forces. Selon World Tribune.com, le fait serait la cause de l'évolution (temporaire) de GW vers une implication de l'ONU.
« President George Bush decided to turn to the United Nations after being advised that the U.S. military was unprepared for a war with Iraq. Related factors included a simulated defeat of U.S. naval forces by Iraq in the Millennium Challenge military exercises last month (...) Western diplomatic sources said Bush's surprise call for the return of UN weapons inspectors stemmed from a recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the United States required up to six more months to prepare for any war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The sources said U.S. Central Command was preoccupied with the the war in Afghanistan and possessed insufficient assets, logistics, and supplies in countries that neighbor Iraq.
» The shortcomings in the U.S. military were pointed out in the Millennium Challenge exercise launched last month, Middle East Newsline reported. The exercise sought to simulate a U.S. attack against a Middle East enemy that resembled Iraq. Officials said in the simulation U.S. naval forces were decimated by an Iraqi missile and weapons of mass destruction strike. The Iraqi side in the exercise used cruise missiles to overwhelm the U.S. Navy's GS radar and sink the entire simulated Blue Armada fleet of 16 ships.
» The Joint Chiefs also maintained that the military did not have enough troops for the massive air attack promoted by the Pentagon. The sources said the military chiefs said the Special Operations Command, with an estimated 30,000 troops, would have to be bolstered from other commands. Officials said nearly 100,000 people have been activated for any war with Iraq. But they said additional troops, including special operations forces, would be needed. The special operations forces are said to have been overstretched by such missions as the war in Afghanistan as well as counterinsurgency missions in the Philippines and Yemen. »
Ce dernier point (« The special operations forces are said to have been overstretched by such missions as the war in Afghanistan as well as counterinsurgency missions in the Philippines and Yemen. ») nous conduit à l'autre texte que nous voulons signaler. Publié quelques jours auparavant et axe sur cette querstion des Special Forces US, il se trouve ainsi recoupé. Il s'agit d'un texte de Richard Bennett Media, source britannique (1) tenue en haute estime, et qui donnait le 11 septembre, il y a deux semaines, des précisions sur l'état des forces spéciales qui doivent jouer un rôle fondamental en Irak. (Le titre du Intelligence briefing de RB Media : « US Special Forces feel the strain ») :
« The United States Special Operations Command though substantial is heavily overstretched by its huge workload of overseas advisory and training missions, the War on Terrorism with major commitments in areas from Yemen and Afghanistan to the Philippines and the growing campaign against Iraq where Special Forces are already in action in large areas of the Kurdish north and in reconnaissance and surveillance operations in the Western Desert and the far south around Basra and the Kuwaiti border.
» USSOCOM though having a paper-strength of some 46,000, actually can call upon less than 9,000 really effective combat troops mainly in the Delta Force, the Rangers, Special Forces Groups(Green Berets), SEAL's and Special Air Force elements, while of those probably no more than 800 are fully trained in advanced anti-terrorist techniques. Britain, though it has a fearsome reputation for the fighting qualities of its SAS and Royal Marine SBS has only about 1,000 in total and would in practice be able to operationally deploy less than half that number. Australia and New Zealand while staunch and understanding allies would be able to make only a token effort from their relatively small SAS formations.
» The obvious answer to the short fall in Special Forces numbers has been denied to the United States through the unwillingness of the major European powers to back Washington's policies on Iraq or even in many cases to accept the rationale behind their implementation. Both France and Italy have large and very efficient Special Forces, while those of Germany, Spain and the Netherlands would all normally have been available to play an important part of any internationally acceptable anti-Iraqi alliance. It would appear unlikely that any important contribution is now likely to be made by any of these countries and indeed Canada or the moderate Arab nations. Turkey has contributed significant numbers of its commando's for operations in Northern Iraq, but it remains unclear whether they will play a serious role in the campaign to unseat the Iraqi dictator or merely ensure that Turkish interests in the region are protected. Israel alone has significant numbers of highly capable Special Forces available, but their use against a sovereign Arab State would also be counter-productive and very possibly catastrophic for any remaining chances Washington might have of convincing an increasingly hostile Islamic world that it really has the best interests of the region firmly in mind when it finally succeeds in overthrowing the Government of Iraq. »
(1) RBMedia, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 2BZ, UK, E-mail: RBMedia.