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U.S. Military Operations in Iraq: Planning, Combat and Occupation

U.S. Military Operations in Iraq: Planning, Combat and Occupation - Cover

Authored by Shane Lauth, Kate Phillips, Erin Schenck. Edited by Dr. W. Andrew Terrill.

April 2006

26 Pages

Brief Synopsis

A colloquium on "U.S. Military Operations in Iraq: Planning, Combat, and Occupation" was held November 2, 2005, and was co-sponsored by SSI and Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Three years beyond the start of that transition, the debate continues about the adequacy of planning for and proficiency of execution of Phase IV operations in Iraq and elsewhere. The debate most often surrounds three issues concerning this final operational phase: the relationship to preceding operational phases; responsibility for planning; and responsibility for execution. Much of the debate to this point has been an unproductive effort to assign blame for shortcomings in the planning for and execution of stability and reconstruction operations; participants in the colloquium moved beyond finding fault, began analyzing the central issues, and addressed solutions.


On November 2, 2005, a colloquium entitled “U.S. Military Operations in Iraq: Planning, Combat and Occupation” was held in Washington, DC, at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The Merrill Center of the Johns Hopkins University organized the colloquium and co-sponsored it with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. Its objective was to gain insight from the apparent successes and problems of different phases of the 2003-05 Iraqi war. Distinguished military officers, national security scholars, leading authors, and journalists gave presentations.

Forging consensus was not a goal of the colloquium, but panelists’ presentations and participants’ comments and questions appeared generally to support the following significant conclusions:

• Military lessons, even for Phase III, of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM remain subject to considerable controversy, and what we now see as conventional wisdom and insight will be increasingly challenged.
• Appraisals of the importance of speed in military operations may be subject to considerable revisions as the study of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM continues.
• The transition from Phase III to Phase IV of military operations is particularly challenging. Considerable effort may be needed to address aspects of Phase IV while Phase III is still being waged.
• All phases of future wars need to be coordinated to work towards the same end.
• Serious analysis must be given to the interplay between force protection and accomplishing stabilization requirements. With regard to Iraq, some commentators argued that force protection should not be a priority at the expense of winning, and protecting the Iraqis.

The remainder of this colloquium report is devoted to detailed summary and analysis of presentations from each panel, comments and questions from attendees, and keynote speaker’s comments.

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