11/10/2022 – War update and commentary: Retreat from Kherson

From Jamie Peipon: The major news we have been waiting for finally broke today: russia has finally admitted that they are being forced to retreat from the city of Kherson. On September 30th, russia said that they were “officially” annexing the Kherson oblast (without any legal grounds to do so). They declared that Kherson was now part of russia “forever.” Just over a month later and they are conceding a huge swath of that “forever annexed” territory back to Ukrainian control. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Kherson is the ONLY regional capital city of which the world’s “second greatest army” was able to occupy and take control.. and they appear to be about to lose it.

As with most everything in this war, the circumstances are a little strange. The military leaders of russia literally announced this plan on television. I wrote a few days ago that a coordinated retreat is one of the most difficult military maneuvers to pull off successfully… but most armies are attempting it without announcing it to the world first. This has led to a few theories about something more going on.

Some seem to believe that this a trap designed to lure Ukraine into significant losses in urban combat. Fuel was poured on the fire of this theory when Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of the president of Ukraine, tweeted out, “A certain someone thinks he is so clever… but we are a step ahead.” Some suspect that maybe there was a back channel agreement to let them evacuate. Others just find it unbelievable that russia would be willing to give up this city as it would be the largest of russia’s military humiliations so far in this war (of which there have already been many). I am optimistic that this is not deception. Ukraine clearly has intelligence eyes on the ground and the area is well within the range of the NATO intelligence-gathering AWACS planes that are certainly feeding Ukraine information and are circling almost directly overhead. Ukraine will know whether or not thousands of troops are trying to cross the river.

We would all love to wake up in the morning and see videos of columns of Ukrainian tanks, with soldiers riding on top eating watermelon and drinking champagne, as they speed into downtown Kherson with Ukrainian flags soaring in the breeze above them. However, I’m a little skeptical that we will get that opportunity immediately. There are reports that russian forces are blowing every bridge they can as they retreat. In addition, they have been occupying this territory since the very beginning of the war and have likely laid minefields and other obstacles as they depart. It seems more likely to me that Kherson will be liberated more slowly and methodically by the army’s engineers rather than by its infantry.

Things will likely become more clear over the next 48 hours. Ukraine may play it slow and let russia clear out for the security of Ukraine’s soldiers. Or, they may attempt to break through the russian lines and chase them down and attempt to rout them as they retreat. Or we could just see them picking off groups of russian soldiers with HIMARS as they bottleneck at the river crossings. The pontoon bridges that russia has created are in pretty miserable condition as it is, and their locations are already dialed in to Ukrainian artillery. There is little doubt that what will happen will be an embarrassment for russia… the question remaining is how embarrassing, and how deadly, will it end up being.

“My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.
Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.”

One response to “11/10/2022 – War update and commentary: Retreat from Kherson”

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