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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Haste and Patchwork Characterize Offensive

The Russian armored columns pressing toward Grozny are in essence combined task forces hurriedly put together from bits and pieces of various army, airborne and Interior Ministry units.

Low manpower in the Russian army has reduced all tank and motor-rifle divisions to near-cadre levels: officers, NCOs and a bare minimum of enlisted men. Consequently they cannot be used in combat operations as whole units.

Only a partial mobilization of reservists could allow the Russian general staff to use its army divisions as full units.

But to do so would mean political suicide for President Boris Yeltsin. In January 1990, Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov called in local reservists to expand to full strength North Caucasus Military District units in order to occupy Baku, but it created an uproar in the Rostov, Krasnodar and Stavropol regions. Moreover, reserve units are far from ready for real combat, and would inevitably suffer heavy losses.

The task forces in Chechnya comprise units of the seventh, 76th and 106th airborne divisions; the 21st airborne brigade; and the recently formed North Caucasus-based mobile-forces light-infantry brigades. The Interior Ministry has provided elements of the North Caucasus-, Central Russia- and Moscow-based motor-rifle divisions and brigades.

The tanks, self-propelled heavy howitzers, mine-sweeping tanks, bridge-building and other combat-engineering equipment are supplied by the North Caucasus motor divisions and combat-engineering brigades. Close air support is provided by locally based army attack aircraft and helicopter regiments.

These task forces were amalgamated hastily, and the troops are mostly combat novices -- especially the Interior Ministry forces, . The overall number of troops directly involved in the operation can be estimated roughly at 10,000. But more reserves can be put in if the Chechen resistance does not melt away.

Special general-staff forces -- the Rostov-based 22nd brigade, the airborne special-force brigade, Interior Ministry special forces or the Alpha Unit of the presidential guard --could penetrate Grozny after regular units besiege it.

These special units could be dispatched to knock out Dudayev's staff and other key positions.