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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part I

Setting the Stage

Chapter 2
The US Army's Historical Legacy of Military Operations Other Than War and the Planning for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM


Recent Military Operations Other Than War, 1989–2000

By the end of the Cold War, the US Army as an institution had built a strong legacy in the conduct of MOOTW. Relatively few Soldiers who entered Iraq in 2003, however, had been participants in these Cold War operations. Instead, if these Soldiers had any practice conducting nonconventional missions, they earned it in the last decade of the 20th century. This section briefly examines the US Army’s experience with stability and support operations since 1991. These missions took American Soldiers to Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo; the experiences in these countries significantly influenced the Army’s understanding of and preparation for stability and support operations in Iraq.

The first of these missions was the brief but complex campaign in 1989 that ousted Panama’s authoritarian leader Manuel Noriega from power. The US military’s actions in Panama, called Operation JUST CAUSE, included both a decisive operations phase that featured combat missions and a transition phase in which US forces conducted humanitarian assistance and other stability and support operations. A joint US force that included the 193d Infantry Brigade, elements of the 82d Airborne Division, the 7th Infantry Division, and the 75th Ranger Regiment went into combat against the Panama Defense Forces (PDF) and Noriega’s paramilitary organizations. Within 2 weeks Noriega and the PDF had surrendered to US forces.

The overthrow of the Noriega regime, however, did not end the operation. While the decisive phase had been successful, parts of Panama suffered through a period of looting and general lawlessness in the wake of the collapse of the Noriega government. The looting alone is estimated to have cost the Panamanian economy close to a billion dollars.23 American Soldiers did transition to the next phase, restoring order and conducting stability and support operations, but most had not been trained for these missions before the invasion.24

The shortcomings in the planning for posthostilities operations in Panama resulted from the US Army’s historical emphasis on conventional combat operations and lack of focus on what followed combat in campaigns such as Operation JUST CAUSE. The staff of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the joint headquarters responsible for the planning, devoted few resources to developing a detailed concept for that final phase of the campaign, and when the overall plan for JUST CAUSE changed in the fall of 1989, the new commander, General Maxwell Thurman, focused solely on combat operations.25 In the period leading up to the US intervention, Thurman never received a briefing on the plan for stability and support operations.26

When it came time for US forces to execute Thurman’s plan for Operation JUST CAUSE, most tactical commanders understood their objectives in the combat portion of the operation; yet, few knew what their roles and tasks were after the combat ended and had not trained for the missions they were expected to accomplish. Perhaps the most glaring problems caused by SOUTHCOM’s lack of attention to the planning were the shortages of military police, CA, and other specialized units in Panama that are critical to the posthostilities phase of a campaign. SOUTHCOM’s poor planning for CA operations, for example, appears now to have caused some disarray in the early attempts to establish a new Panamanian government.27 To be sure, American forces in Operation JUST CAUSE achieved the great majority of their operational objectives. But, because of the tendencies of commanders and planners to focus on conventional combat operations, the posthostilities phase did not go as smoothly as the Army desired. The lack of planning for this critical phase of Operation JUST CAUSE was indicative of the deeply-held biases within the Army—attitudes that would persist and play a role in the planning for OIF.

The US military conducted its next major MOOTW in the Horn of Africa. By 1992 the country of Somalia was in a crisis with much of its population suffering from years of violence, political instability, and food shortages. The United Nations (UN) decided to intervene with humanitarian aid, hoping to cultivate a peace that could lead to a new, stable, and legitimate government. US forces, including thousands of Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division (10th MTN), deployed to provide security for the UN organizations arriving in Somalia to distribute food. However, US military leaders quickly broadened the parameters of what became known as Operation RESTORE HOPE. In early 1993 US Army units were involved in the training of Somali police and civic action projects, such as resettling civilian groups and fostering local political institutions, in addition to the security mission.28 When Somali militias began to threaten the success of these efforts, US Army units expanded security operations to include the conduct of counterinsurgency operations against key warlords. In October 1993, after the attempt to seize the militia leader Mohammed Farah Aideed ended with dozens of American casualties, support for the mission within the US population dropped sharply. Over the next 6 months, the Clinton administration scaled back military operations and US forces departed Somalia in March 1994.

For a short time, “No More Somalias” became a catch phrase within US military circles. The debacle there strengthened previous arguments made by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in 1984 after the abortive intervention in Lebanon in 1983, and later reinforced by General Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1990–91, during the prelude to Desert Storm. The so-called Weinberger and Powell doctrines held that US forces should only be committed with overwhelming military force in support of a vital US national interest, with domestic US support, to achieve clearly defined goals, and with a clear exit strategy.

Less than a year later, however, American Soldiers were once again conducting stability and support operations, but this time in a location much closer to home. Political crises in Haiti had led to the creation of a UN-sponsored multinational force whose mission was to conduct a forcible entry into the island nation, stabilize the situation, and create an environment in which democratic institutions could set down roots. When the United States launched Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY in the fall of 1994, an armed invasion became unnecessary after the junta that ruled Haiti decided not to oppose the intervention.29 The US element in the effort consisted primarily of Marines, US Army Special Operations Forces, and Soldiers of the 10th MTN, many of whom were veterans of Somalia. By the middle of October, two brigades from this division established bases in the urban centers of Haiti and began conducting stability and support operations.

For the next 18 months, US forces created a stable environment with a combination of patrolling, civic-action projects, and campaigns designed to prepare the Haitian population for democratic politics.30 US Soldiers trained the Haitian police, repaired the electrical infrastructure, inspected health facilities, and assisted governmental ministries in the transition to democracy. Over time, the level of violence among Haitians declined. When the UN took responsibility for the mission in Haiti and replaced most of the American troops in 1995, UPHOLD DEMOCRACY appeared to be a success as the new government prepared for national elections.

Soon after the end of the mission in Haiti, events in the Balkans redirected the attention of American civilian and military policy makers. The multiple crises in the region formerly known as Yugoslavia had been brewing since the late 1980s. By 1995 attempts by the UN, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and other international organizations had failed to deter aggression by forces intent on fomenting ethnic strife and redrawing territorial boundaries. This failure—combined with the fact that by 1995 the warring ethnic factions were exhausted militarily—led the Clinton administration to attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the problems in the region. This diplomatic offensive succeeded in gathering the interested parties in Dayton, Ohio, where US representatives facilitated the creation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP), an agreement that created a new territorial status quo and forms of protection for the various ethnic groups in the conflict.

Critical to the success of this process was the Clinton administration’s commitment to send US ground forces into the region to implement the GFAP. The American operation to enforce the GFAP accords became known as Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR and consisted primarily of the 1st Armored Division (1st AD), which deployed in late 1995 from Germany to Bosnia where its 18,000 Soldiers joined approximately 40,000 peacekeepers from other NATO member states already in the region in a show of overwhelming force. The UN approved the creation of this new entity and christened it the Implementation Force (IFOR). For the next year, American Soldiers in IFOR served as peace enforcers, implementing the GFAP throughout Bosnia. The mission required operations focused on patrolling the zones separating the Serb and Muslim forces and enforcing other aspects of the GFAP. US Army leaders in Bosnia viewed peace enforcement as a tactical mission and were always prepared to use armed force if necessary.

Nevertheless, as the situation calmed, some American units began conducting other types of stability and support operations. One American brigade, for example, initiated efforts that reduced ethnic tension by improving a local market where different groups came together to conduct business.31 Additional units provided security and other assistance in support of Bosnian national elections in September 1996. By the end of 1996, when IFOR’s mission ended, American Soldiers were involved in hundreds of projects that relied far more on negotiating abilities and coordinating nongovernment organizations (NGOs) than on combat skills.32

In fact, Army leaders began to emphasize—in unequivocal terms—the importance of solving problems without using the force of arms. For example, Colonel Gregory Fontenot, the commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st AD, told his troops that the firing of a weapon was equivalent to a tactical defeat.33

Despite the success of the multinational force in Bosnia, the region was still not politically stable when IFOR’s mandate ended in December 1996. The UN renewed the charter of the mission, renaming the effort Stabilization Force (SFOR). Building on IFOR’s success, SFOR would prevent the outbreak of hostilities between the ethnic groups, create a peaceful environment and, within means, provide assistance to civilian organizations involved in stabilizing Bosnia. The US Army continued to play a major role in Bosnia, but its commitment to SFOR dropped to 10,500 Soldiers when elements of the 1st Infantry Division (1st ID) replaced 1st AD in November 1996. Reductions continued after 1996 as SFOR made greater strides in establishing stability.

In 1998 the Clinton administration renamed the US effort in Bosnia Operation JOINT FORGE and made the US commitment to SFOR semipermanent. The American presence would remain in Bosnia even as the number of troops dwindled. In 1999 that number dropped to 4,000, and 5 years later fewer than 1,000 American troops remained in the multinational force in Bosnia.34 More important than the numbers is that during Operation JOINT FORGE a large number of Active, National Guard, and Reserve units rotated through Bosnia on 6- or 12-month tours. The thousands of Soldiers that were part of JOINT FORGE gained experience in the conduct of a wide array of stability and support operations while they maintained the peace so that the people of Bosnia could recover from years of war.

Unfortunately, SFOR’s success did not lead to the end of ethnic conflict in the Balkans. In 1998 the President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, began a campaign to suppress and expel the Kosovars, the people of Albanian origin living in the Serbian province of Kosovo. To ensure that Milosevic did not succeed in violently “cleansing” Kosovo of this ethnic group, NATO intervened, first with diplomacy and then with an air campaign that in 1999 forced the Serbian Government to accept the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force to Kosovo.

NATO built this new force, called Kosovo forces (KFOR), around the reinforced 2d Brigade of the 1st ID.35 Taking up positions in the eastern region of Kosovo, the 7,000 US Soldiers of KFOR began peace-enforcement operations designed to ensure that all Serb military forces left the province, and to prevent new ethnic hostilities from erupting. In the first 18 months of the mission, the US command in Kosovo supported these imperatives with patrolling and other security-oriented operations. However, after the first year NATO began shifting the focus of the mission to the establishment of a stable political and social environment that would allow for the return of Kosovars who had fled the province or had been forced out by Serbian soldiers. The American brigades that began rotating through Kosovo for 6-month periods after 1999 adjusted to this new objective by providing logistical assistance for elections, forming and training the new police force (the Kosovo Protection Corps), and even conducting minor civic-action projects such as road repairs and the construction of sidewalks and bus shelters.36

Like the NATO presence in Bosnia, KFOR has become a semipermanent force. While the US Army still serves as a major component of KFOR, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken priority over the peacekeeping effort in Kosovo. With OIF and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) placing great demands on Active Duty units, the American commitment to KFOR has shifted to the US Army Reserve and the National Guard. Since 2003 four brigades from the Reserve Component have provided the American manpower for KFOR.

The Army’s experience in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo between 1994 and 2003 demonstrated an undeniable capacity to succeed in MOOTW. This growing skill, coming so soon after the overwhelming victory in 1991 against Iraq, demonstrated the Army’s flexibility in conducing different types of campaigns. It is important to note that, with the exception of Somalia in 1993, these operations were relatively peaceful. Looking back, some analysts have tried to understand the factors that led to American successes in these campaigns and many have focused on the issue of troop density—the ratio of troops to inhabitants—as a critical determinant in missions such as peacekeeping in the Balkans. At its peak strength under the IFOR in 1996, NATO deployed 15 soldiers per every 1,000 Bosnian inhabitants. In 1999 NATO deployed just over 21 soldiers per inhabitant when it occupied Kosovo with KFOR. In comparison, both of these figures exceeded the troop-density figures for the occupations of Germany and Japan after the end of World War II. The KFOR figure nearly matches the troop-density ratio of 24.7 troops per 1,000 inhabitants employed by the British at the peak of their victorious counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya from 1948 to 1956.37 US and NATO accomplishments in the Balkans in the 1990s seem to owe some credit to the idea articulated in the Weinberger and Powell doctrines that overwhelming force is critical in military operations of all kinds.

As successful as these missions were, in neither Bosnia nor Kosovo did the population—or a segment of the population—significantly challenge the authority or objectives of the US Army. Certainly no insurgency ever formed in these situations to challenge Army operations and the legitimacy of the US mission. Thus, the Army’s growing experience with MOOTW in the 1990s did not include counterinsurgency operations or major counterterrorism missions.

Chapter 2. The US Army’s Historical Legacy of Military Operations Other Than War and the Planning for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

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