ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign
The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005
Setting the Stage
The US Army's Historical Legacy of Military Operations Other Than War and the Planning for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
Planning for Stability and Support Operations in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
As the previous section has shown, the US Army entered Iraq in March 2003 with a significant amount of experience in the conduct of stability and support operations. To understand how the Army employed this base of knowledge to prepare for full spectrum operations in Iraq, it is important to examine how the Army’s legacy with stability and support operations affected its general approach to planning large-scale campaigns like OIF. The term “stability and support operations” had two meanings in 2003. First, stability and support operations were included within the category of MOOTW on the spectrum of conflict. These included such operations as humanitarian assistance, military training exercises, peace operations, and foreign internal defense which could include counterinsurgency. In this meaning of the term, stability and support operations were a type of action, campaign, or conflict that was less violent and intense than full-scale conventional or major theater war against a nation-state.
But stability and support operations were also defined as those specific military tasks that were not strictly offensive or defensive combat actions directed against enemy forces. In this meaning, stability and support operations could be performed at any time in any type of conflict whenever military units took nonlethal action to support their overall objectives. Guarding key infrastructure, providing aid to civilians, and supporting indigenous governing bodies are examples of these types of tasks.70 In common practice, most Soldiers conflated these two definitions and used the term “stability and support operations” to refer both to conflicts that did not include combat against a conventional enemy force and to describe all noncombat military actions in a conflict.
Many Soldiers gave the term a third meaning when combining it with campaign planning. In 2002 and 2003 military planners divided campaigns into four phases: Phase I—Deter/Engage, Phase II—Seize the Initiative, Phase III—Decisive Operations, and Phase IV—Transition. Phase IV (PH IV) is critical to military campaigns because it is during this period that military success is used to finalize the achievement of the national goals that serve as the overall objectives of the campaigns. This meant that PH IV often focused on the establishment of law and order, economic reconstruction and civilian self-government, and the redeployment of most or all military forces out of the area of operations.71 Unfortunately, many Soldiers used the terms “stability and support operations,” “postconflict operations,” and “PH IV operations” synonymously. This practice created the incorrect belief that stability and support operations took place only after major offensive or defensive combat had ended, and that full spectrum operations meant the sequential use instead of the simultaneous use of offense, defense, and stability and support operations during a campaign. This misunderstanding has also led to the mistaken belief that stability and support operations were somehow less difficult and required less planning and preparation. These ambiguities and assumptions affected how military planners thought about the design and conduct of OIF.†
Despite the importance of PH IV in successfully achieving the strategic objectives of a military campaign, the Army and the US military’s tendency in general has been to spend the lion’s share of its resources on the first three phases of a campaign. In the past, this inclination has had two related and detrimental consequences for the planning of PH IV. First, planners have often lacked the time and personnel to focus on the final phase of the campaign and thus left it undeveloped; and second, because of the understandable emphasis on combat operations, campaign planners, like those that designed Operation JUST CAUSE, allowed PH IV plans to develop in isolation, thus hindering the establishment of critical linkages and smooth transitions between combat and postcombat operations.72
When preparations began for an invasion of Iraq in the fall of 2001, the US military based its operations on a plan known as Concept Plan (CONPLAN) 1003. This plan was the result of years of work at US Central Command (CENTCOM), the joint headquarters responsible for military policy and operations in the Middle East. On 27 November 2001 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks and his staff to develop a plan to remove the Saddam regime from power in Iraq. Franks first discussed the plans with President George W. Bush on 28 December 2001, and he and his staff immediately began reviewing the existing war plan for operations against Iraq that had been written in 1998.73 Over the course of 2002, Franks directed a major recasting of these plans. Many of these changes resulted from concerns of both the Secretary of Defense and General Franks that the 1998 plan did not reflect either the US military’s new capabilities or the reduced capabilities of Iraq’s Army after a decade of sanctions.74
Specifically, the CENTCOM commander viewed the earlier plan as too unwieldy and inflexible in its demands for approximately 380,000 troops that would require months to deploy into theater and prepare for combat.75 Franks sought to reduce the size of the force required for operations against Saddam’s regime and to take advantage of new special operations forces (SOF) and precision-strike capabilities, which offered the CENTCOM commander speed and firepower. These capabilities allowed Franks to insert flexibility into the plan through the provision for a “running start,” the initiation of major combat operations as soon as the requisite force package required for the beginning of combat arrived and was prepared to enter Iraq. The running start concept meant that other forces would continue to flow into the theater, but they would do so after combat began. Franks described the running start in the following way:
We don’t know what the force needs to look like for Phase IV, so we can’t and we won’t design a force of 250,000 or 350,000 people. What we will do is we will begin to move forces into the region and when we reach the point where that force is sufficient to remove Saddam Hussein, we will just start running. So it took on the name ‘running start.’76
With this option, Franks could seize and retain the initiative. Further, the concept would allow conditions on the ground, rather than the schedule in the plan, to dictate when CENTCOM began combat operations.
Franks participated in numerous discussions with the President and his top advisors about modifying the original CONPLAN 1003. The CENTCOM commander described those sessions as an open, iterative process in which the President ended each session with the same question, “Well, are you satisfied with the plan now?”77 While he and his staff refined the plan during the course of 2002, Franks’ answer to the President’s queries was “No.” In January 2003 he was finally able to tell President Bush that the revised plan met his concept and requirements and that the plan now reflected his personal vision for the operation. According to Franks, at no time did the DOD or any other authority force any parts of the plan on him or CENTCOM over his opposition or that of the Armed Services.78
The plan that Franks and CENTCOM ultimately finalized in January 2003 was built around the so-called “hybrid” option, which combined the flexibility of the running start concept with a more traditional approach that planners labeled “generated start.” The hybrid 1003V brought approximately 210,000 troops into the Iraqi theater, but CENTCOM built in enough flexibility to allow Franks to begin operations before this entire force was on the ground. The concepts behind the plan—a reliance on speed and air power, smaller and more agile forces, a rapid deployment without long buildups, as well as the desire to avoid lengthy and costly occupations like those in the Balkans—were all ideas debated since DESERT STORM by officials and critics in and outside of the US military. The rapid defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 by only a token US ground force lent some measure of credibility to those concepts.
The plan called for a two-pronged invasion of Iraq—from Kuwait in the south and from Turkey to the north. Franks envisioned a rapid assault that would quickly reach the heart of Saddam’s regime in Baghdad. After the war, however, Franks stated that as early as January 2003 he knew the Turks would never allow 4th ID to invade Iraq from their territory. He kept the division in the Mediterranean until after the ground invasion began to deceive the Iraqis and tie down their forces.79
Not everyone favored Franks’ ideas that formed the core of CONPLAN 1003V. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the CENTCOM commander at a September 2002 Camp David meeting that he thought too few troops were envisioned in the plan.80 Powell disagreed with Franks’ belief that a lightning strike toward Baghdad could succeed and that it was impossible to anticipate the number of troops needed in Iraq after Saddam was toppled. Others such as the V Corps staff and the Service Chiefs expressed their concerns and offered advice during the development of the plan throughout 2002.81 Franks, nevertheless, was determined to prevent voices from outside the joint chain of command from injecting what he considered to be parochial issues into his plan. In his recollections of the planning process, Franks variously described the Service Chiefs during this period as “Title X bean-counters,” “narrow-minded,” and as “fighting for turf” to maintain their “end-strength and weapons systems,” along with other, more colorful names.82
The credibility of the Joint Chiefs and others who had argued for more robust force levels had been significantly weakened during the planning and execution of operations in Afghanistan.83 The controversy over Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki’s 25 February 2003 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he stated it would take “several hundred thousand” troops to occupy Iraq after Saddam was deposed was the most open example of the professional differences CENTCOM’s plans generated among the Services and within the DOD and the administration.
Some observers have claimed, incorrectly, that the Joint Chiefs were opposed to the CENTCOM commander’s plans. General John Keane, who, as the Army Vice Chief of Staff attended almost every session in the Pentagon’s secure planning room, stated:
The Joint Chiefs asked questions, but when Phase III, Major Combat Operations [sic] went to the President it had the thumbprints of the Joint Chiefs on it, as well as Phase IV. That is another thing that is not fully understood. People attacked it as Rumsfeld’s troop list and he kept the size of the force down. It was Tommy’s [Franks] plan and the Army supported it. That is the truth of it.84
Keane also agreed with Franks’ assessment that the US military had become much more effective since 1991 while Saddam’s army had become greatly degraded:
We knew this enemy for 12 years, we knew him cold, we knew what his limitations were, we certainly knew what his vulnerabilities were, we knew that we had considerably better skill, we knew we had better will, and Tommy thought that he could achieve tactical surprise. The bold part of the plan was the size of the force. The brilliant part of it achieved tactical surprise. . . . I thought both of those were just brilliant pieces of work. He and his people deserve the lion’s share of the credit for that.85
To many, the 1003V plan was a significant improvement over the original and took advantage of new US capabilities.
CENTCOM’s plan designed a campaign around a joint multinational force. Franks delegated the development of the most critical part of 1003V—the ground forces plan—to the US Third Army, which had been designated as CENTCOM’s Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC). This joint doctrinal term designated the headquarters that planned and commanded the operations of the US Army, Marine Corps, and Coalition ground formations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR). In late 2001 CFLCC began work on revising the ground operations portion of 1003V, and by early 2003 its planners had produced four different versions of the plan, the last of which—a version called COBRA II—became the operative plan for the actual campaign on 13 January 2003.86
†The 2008 version of FM 3-0 has removed this confusion and stability and support operations now refer only to military tasks designed to establish a safe and secure environment in support of a host-nation government or as part of an occupation. Stability and support operations are no longer a type of operation in the spectrum of conflict.
Recent Military Operations Other Than War, 1989–2000
Doctrine, Training, and Education
Soldiering in Stability and Support Operations: The Legacy of 1991–2002
Planning for Stability and Support Operations in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
The Planning for Phase IV—Operations after Toppling the Saddam Regime
Assessing Phase IV Plans for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
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