Monday, August 11, 2008

Why didn't the Georgians blow up the tunnel?

Morality and politics aside, here's a tactical question about the Georgia-Russia conflict over South Ossetia:

When Georgia tried to re-take South Ossetia, why didn't they blow-up the south end of the Roki Tunnel? It's a major supply route from Russia to the South Ossetia region. Russia has been pouring tanks, troops and supplies through it. This article says the Roki Tunnel was a target of Georgian forces, but they must have been beaten back from it. War Nerd also wonders why they didn't use planes, commandoes, or other means to take it out.

Well, Georgia seems to be paying a penalty for not accomplishing this. Stratfor (subscription required) is implying that the Russians have already won. Other news sources report ongoing heavy fighting, with Georgian troops retreating to defend the capital.

If an armchair guy like me can think of blowing up this tunnel, why didn't the Georgians do it? I don't even know much about the geography of the place. But it seemed a crashingly obvious thing to do.

UPDATE: I've found some other people have a similar opinion of the importance of the tunnel. Here's Stratfor writing for Business Spectator:
Fundamentally there are only two locations in this conflict that matter: the capital and the southern end of the Roki Tunnel, which connects South Ossetia to Russia. The capital is the only city of note in South Ossetia, and the Roki is the only means for Russia to shuttle forces to and from the territory. The tunnel is only two lanes wide and is an excellent choke point. If Georgia can capture and hold those two targets, South Ossetia’s 15-year rebellion will in essence be over. But that can happen only if the Russians let it.
But the Georgians didn't have to hold it. They only had to render it unusable. Even if they had managed to block it for a short period of time, it might have prevented them from getting overrun by Russian forces.

After only three days, the Georgian leader has had to pull back, partly because his troops failed to seal off the Roki tunnel, 2½ miles (4km) long, that links South Ossetia with North Ossetia and provided passage for dozens of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles. It was a military blunder.


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