The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth has produced a comprehensive study of the failure to plan for the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq. It is entitled On Point II, Transition to the New Campaign: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom May 2003-January 2005. It is a very lengthy and detailed study, so there is no way to analyze it within the context of a weblog. This is left to others who have the professional honor and assignment to study such things. However, a few preliminary thoughts are outlined below. They cannot hope to be comprehensive or even connected. They are presented in stream of consciousness fashion.
First, it seems that it would have been wise to have incorporated the other branches of the armed forces in the scope of the study. For example, it might have been informative to have the Marine Corps perspectives to dovetail together with those of the Army, even though managing such an endeavor would have been much more difficult.
Second, on page 87 we read “As the United States moved closer to confrontation with Iraq in 2002 and early 2003, the US Government began conducting a series of studies intended to help understand what might occur after a military defeat of the Saddam regime. None of the organizations involved in this effort came to the conclusion that a serious insurgent resistance would emerge after a successful Coalition campaign against the Baathist regime.” True, perhaps, but this sidesteps important issues, such as the fact that there was copius analysis that came to the conclusion that many more troops were needed (General Anthony Zinni and his team concluded 400,000 men) in order to maintain order once the regime was defeated.
Third, on page 92 and following, there is much discussion of de-Ba’athification and disbanding the Iraqi Army in the development of the Sunni insurgency. Later on page 103 there is a good Venn Diagram showing a breakdown in the trouble-makers, including foreign Islamic extremists, gangs, opportunists and criminals, the unemployed, aggrieved tribes, and so on. It is commonly understood that the insurgency included more than just al Qaeda, but rather, was composed of a large indigenous element, many subsets of which were fighting for different reasons. However, one glaring omission is the absence of the discussion and analysis of Iranian elements (Quds, money, IRG) prior to the war (see Michael Rubin, AEI, Bad Neighbor).
Fourth, on page 103 in the section on Shi’a insurgency groups, the discussion seems very truncated with little to no real analysis of the affect of Moqtada al Sadr on the subsequent months and years. It is of significance that in 2004 Sadr was actually in the custody of the 3/2 Marines, and ordered by coalition authorities, at the behest of the British, to let him go. This significance of this cannot be overestimated, and yet the discussion lacks any acknowledgement of the event or its context.
Fifth, on page 116 the study notes that “While relatively few American Soldiers in Iraq in 2003 were familiar with counterinsurgency warfare and its theorists, it did not take long before many of the basic concepts of counterinsurgency made their way into US Army planning and operations. This process was indirect and based on immediate requirements rather than experience or doctrine.” This seems basically correct, since necessity is the mother of invention. A Soldier or Marine cannot grow up in the complex environment that is America without being familiar with a basic understanding of humans and how they interact, even if there is an overall lack of knowledge of the Iraqi culture. Human terrain mapping isn’t just for professional anthropologists. Every warrior is an anthropologist.
The sixth point may be the most critical of all, and the one closest to our heart. The Captain’s Journal is noncommittal on Paul Bremer. He did some good things. He also did some nonproductive things. But The Captain’s Journal is not noncommittal on Donald Rumsfeld. We watched closely as he told jokes and acted coy in Pentagon press briefings while warriors died and lost arms and legs, brain function and eyesight. In the most stunning revelation of the report, we learn that:
Critical to the understanding of the troop strength issue is that, as the senior US official in Iraq, the CPA Chief had the final say over US policy in Iraq. Bremerat times expressed displeasure to Coalition military leaders about the inadequate security situation and its relation to troop levels. Those concerns, however, did not persuade him to significantly change the CPA-led programs to train new Iraqi police and military forces or to agree that Iraqi military forces should have a role in internal security matters. Ultimately, neither Sanchez nor Bremer had the finalword on troop levels. That authority rested inside the Pentagon. Bremer remembered that the al-Sadr uprising and Sunni attacks of April 2004 conclusively demonstrated to him that Coalition troops were stretched too thin and that led him to send a written request for one or two more divisions—25,000 to 45,000 troops—to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The CPA chief confirmed that in mid-May 2004 Rumsfeld received the request and that the Secretary of Defense passed it on to the Service Chiefs. According to Bremer, he never received an official response to his request.
If we began OIF with too few troops, at least Bremer noticed that we needed greater force projection early on and requested an increase in force size. Rumsfeld must have been bored with the request, as he simply ignored it, choosing instead to smile and be clever with the press.
There are many more revelations, and some information that is commonly known among persons who have followed or been involved with Operation Iraqi Freedom. There will be more to come on this from The Captain’s Journal. This report is well worth the time and will take its place among required reading in professional military circles. It is a good thing that such honesty and scholarship is forthcoming from Leavenworth.