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FALLUJAH: PLEASE, NO CAKEWALKS

As you'd expect, the reports from the first day of fighting in Fallujah have been confusing and contradictory. The New York Times describes an hours-long fight for "one house" by a group of 150 marines, while in another part of town, American units had pushed as far as 800 yards into the city. The Washington Post blandly states that "troops encountered some resistance in the first hours of the battle."We all want as many of our troops as possible to come home from this fight safe. But I, for one, am hoping U.S. soldiers and marines don't have too easy of a time in Fallujah. And before you press "send" on that hate mail, let me explain why.The goal of the Fallujah attack is to wipe out an insurgent stronghold. But that aim will only be met if the insurgents actually stick around and fight. That's not a standard tactic in the guerilla playbook, however. Insurgents traditionally avoid those kind of direct confrontations, opting for the hit-and-run or the terror attack instead. Just look at what happened recently in the Iraqi town of Samarra: American forces easily "take" from the rebels in October; by November, the place is back to being a terror hotspot.If Fallujah varies from this norm, the fighting there could be brutal. American technological advantages in communications and battlefield awareness tend to crumble in urban canyons. But at least it could prove decisive.Now, there are some signs that the hard-core, religiously-inspired insurgents have decided to stick around. The Post caught up with a dozen rebel fighters before the shooting started, and the paper found "a new generation of the jihad diaspora, arriving in Fallujah from all over the Arab world: five Saudis, three Tunisians, a Yemeni. Only three were Iraqis." These Associated Press pictures seem to tell a story of seasoned insurgents.But John Robb, at the always-insightful Global Guerillas blog, isn't so sure. "Some insurgents will stay for the fight (as payment for the support provided and/or due to a strong affection for the city's people)," he writes. But "most of the people and equipment we want to kill or capture is already gone. The US/Iraqi government telegraphed their desire to retake the city months ago. Further, many other locations are available" for the guerillas to operate in.Robb instead predicts a battle "against local boys, organized by neighborhood, mosque, family, or tribepeople that are fighting for their homes."Let's hope he's wrong.THERE'S MORE: "U.S. and Iraqi forces have faced less resistance than expected and suffered minimal casualties, a commander [told CNN] Tuesday, as the troops continue their second day of assaults on militant-controlled Falluja."

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