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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


The Planning for Phase IV—Operations after Toppling the Saddam Regime

In January 2003 President Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 24, which formally gave the DOD primacy in the postinvasion effort in Iraq.87 This directive granted the department authority to assert leadership in the planning for operations after the Saddam regime was toppled. What had emerged in 2002, even before the directive, was a series of planning initiatives at various levels in the DOD that reflected a variety of attitudes and approaches toward the overall concept of American involvement in postinvasion operations. On the level of strategic policy, the DOD’s approach to Iraq was significantly shaped by the Bush administration’s overall wary attitude toward what was sometimes called nation-building. Bush had taken office in 2001 having campaigned on his dislike for nation-building projects, such as those in the Balkans that had absorbed a great deal of American military resources in the 1990s.88 For some military theorists at the time, the US Armed Forces existed to fight and win wars and should not have its strength dissipated in missions like SFOR and KFOR.

This stance enforced Secretary Rumsfeld’s desire to transform the military into a more agile force that could deploy quickly on a global scale. This vision of a transformed American military implied avoiding commitments to ponderous, troop-heavy, logistics intensive, open-ended, and costly stabilization and reconstruction campaigns. It would be wrong to attach this aversion solely to Rumsfeld or to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. These and other related views about the nature of war in the future and the need for the reinvention of military power were supported by many thinkers in and out of the US Government and the Armed Services in the 1990s. The US Army’s much-debated transformation efforts launched by Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki were in some ways an outgrowth of this debate and preceded Rumsfeld’s initiatives.

Despite the misgivings about nation-building, the DOD did commit resources to the planning of postinvasion operations. In retrospect, however, the overall effort appears to have been disjointed and, at times, poorly coordinated, perhaps reflecting the department’s ambivalence toward nation-building. Within the department, most of the responsibility for the planning would fall on the shoulders of CENTCOM, the combatant command responsible for the overall campaign. And Franks’ planners did prepare for operations after the fall of the regime.

Still, given the short time it had to prepare CONPLAN 1003V—and the fact that the command was simultaneously prosecuting the war in Afghanistan—the CENTCOM staff dedicated most of its planning effort to the invasion itself. Also, despite guidance about CENTCOM’s role in PH IV of the campaign, Franks did not see postwar Iraq as his long-term responsibility. He later wrote that he expected a huge infusion of civilian experts and other resources to come from the US Government after CENTCOM completed the mission of removing the Saddam regime.89 Franks’ message to the DOD and the Joint Chiefs was, “You pay attention to the day after, and I’ll pay attention to the day of.”90

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, understanding that CENTCOM was focused on winning the conventional portion of the campaign, decided to assist in the planning for PH IV. To do so, in December 2002 the Joint Staff created an organization called Combined Joint Task Force–IV (CJTF-IV) (also designated as CJTF-4) to lead its planning effort for post-Saddam Iraq. Established by Joint Forces Command and headed by Brigadier General Steve Hawkins, CJTF-IV’s relationship to CENTCOM and CFLCC remained unspecified, except that it would help design and prepare the joint task force headquarters that would take over PH IV operations from CENTCOM after the removal of the Baathist regime.91 Though Hawkins’ organization completed some initial planning before the war, its work did not influence CFLCC planning and by early April 2003 it slowly disbanded as its personnel drifted off to join other commands in and out of the theater of operations.

Around the same time CJTF-IV began to organize, the Secretary of Defense established his own organization for the civilian portion of the stabilization and reconstruction effort. By the end of January 2003, Rumsfeld had chosen Lieutenant General (Retired) Jay Garner as the head of what became known as the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA). Garner earned his reputation as a smart planner in his work with the Iraqi Kurds during Operation PROVIDE COMFORT in the aftermath of DESERT STORM. While Garner and ORHA officially became the DOD lead for postwar planning, staff officers in CJTF-IV, CFLCC, and CENTCOM continued to develop their own PH IV plans. One reason for this lack of coordination was Garner’s struggle to create ORHA from the ground up. He had 61 days between the announcement of ORHA’s creation and the start of the war to build an organization, develop interagency plans across the administration, coordinate them with CENTCOM and the still undetermined military headquarters that would assume the military lead in post-Saddam Iraq, and deploy his team to the theater. It proved to be an almost impossible set of tasks.

The short period of preparation was not the only problem facing ORHA. Garner was supposed to give his organization an interagency character and, to some degree, he had success. For example, a significant number of officers from the Department of State, including four active ambassadors, would eventually join ORHA before its deployment to Iraq, although many of these diplomats and experts did so at the last minute.92 However, Garner relied most on Active Duty and retired military officers as the core of an organization that grew to almost 300 staffers by the beginning of March 2003. Because some officials within the DOD opposed creating a full-scale interagency effort within ORHA, Garner was not allowed to accept all of the experts on Iraq offered by the Department of State.93

This general friction within the interagency process also prevented some ORHA officials from working with other government agencies to prepare for specific problems in post-Saddam Iraq. For example, Paul Hughes, a retired Army colonel who worked for ORHA, recalled that when he tried to create a political-military concept for PH IV operations and coordinate that plan with agencies outside the DOD, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith rebuffed his attempt to gain interagency input.94 Former Secretary of State Powell, who led the State Department between 2001 and 2004, has acknowledged that, in his opinion, these attitudes within the DOD hindered the overall planning process for PH IV operations. Powell stated that the Bush administration made the right choice in giving the DOD the lead in planning for post-Saddam Iraq, but the overall effort “would have been better served if [the DOD] had asked for more help from people outside.”95

In retrospect, the ORHA planning effort appears to have suffered from this lack of interagency support. Garner has written that in January and February 2003 his staff reviewed various studies of post-Saddam Iraq completed by a number of Government agencies and tried to find the resources to achieve the objectives outlined in these works. Based on the findings in these studies, ORHA created its own plan that focused on preparing for the four most likely crises to occur in Iraq after the toppling of the Baathist regime: oil field fires, large numbers of refugees, food shortages, and the outbreak of epidemics.96 None of these problems would emerge once Baghdad actually fell in April 2003.

Of all the organizations involved in the planning of OIF, CFLCC conducted the largest and most comprehensive effort in preparation for PH IV. COBRA II, CFLCC’s plan for OIF, featured two relatively simple concepts: a quick invasion and the rapid ousting of Saddam Hussein. However, according to Lieutenant General William Webster, who served as CFLCC’s deputy commanding general in late 2002 and 2003, the finalization of the details that brought these concepts to life consumed the efforts of the command’s senior leaders and staffs, making it difficult for planners to commit much energy to PH IV of COBRA II. Webster recalled that policymakers in the Office of the Secretary of Defense made constant changes to the forces allocated for Phase III, modifications that forced the planners at CFLCC to keep their focus on adjusting the plans for Phase II and Phase III.97 According to Webster, this left little time or energy for PH IV preparation: “Phase IV was always something we were going to get to when we got Phase III well under way and we knew what forces we were going to have available for this fight. Up until right before execution, we were still jacking around with the troops available and, therefore, were back into Phase III.”98 Given these pressures, the CFLCC deputy commander asserted that “there was seriously not anything but a skeleton of Phase IV until very late.”99

However, in the 18-month planning process that led to COBRA II, the CFLCC planners were always cognizant of the requirement for PH IV operations. COBRA II’s mission statement reflected that understanding: “CFLCC attacks to defeat Iraqi forces, to control the zone of action and to secure and exploit designated sites, and removes the current Iraqi regime. On order, CFLCC conducts post-hostilities stability and support operations [emphasis added], transitions to CJTF-4.”100 The CFLCC Chief of Plans, Colonel Kevin C.M. Benson, emphasized that this mission statement had remained the same since CFLCC began drafting plans for the land war in 2002.

CFLCC’s vision of how the Coalition forces would transition to PH IV operations differed slightly from the one offered by CENTCOM. According to CENTCOM’s Operation Plan (OPLAN) 1003V, Phase III, Decisive Offensive Operations, would take 125 days and PH IV would not begin in full until the Coalition completed Phase III.101 Once PH IV did begin, the CENTCOM planners saw postinvasion operations divided into three subphases. In Phase IVa, CFLCC forces would serve as the lead authority and would focus on creating a stable environment and providing basic humanitarian assistance to the population of Iraq. Once stability was achieved, CFLCC would transition to Phase IVb, transferring its authority to a new combined joint task force and redeploying most of its forces. In this second subphase, the new CJTF and its stability and support operations would fall under the authority of ORHA. Phase IVc would begin only when a new representative Iraqi Government was prepared to accept full responsibility for the country. The Coalition would turn over authority to the Iraqis, maintaining a small number of military units in the country to support the fledgling state.102

Once Benson and his planners received the mission and intent statements, they began to develop a list of problems and issues that CFLCC would face once PH IV operations began. The list grew and included major challenges, such as general lawlessness, humanitarian assistance, and assessment of the oil infrastructure. After careful analysis to include wargames that tested US actions in the most likely scenarios of PH IV, Benson concluded that this phase was growing so complex it required its own separate plan. On 20 March 2003, the day Coalition forces crossed into Iraq, Lieutenant General David D. McKiernan approved the creation of a new plan, and Benson’s planners began work on what was called ECLIPSE II, after the original Operation ECLIPSE that served as the plan for the occupation of Germany after World War II. This new plan, really a sequel to COBRA II, would be published on 12 April 2003, almost a week after Coalition forces entered Baghdad.103

ECLIPSE II added depth to the earlier CFLCC plan by establishing the specific mission statement, assumptions, objectives, and phasing that would govern unit operations once Coalition land forces entered PH IV. In the plan’s mission statement, CFLCC clearly stated its intent to conduct stability and support operations to create a secure environment in which the command could transition to the follow-on headquarters, then designated as Combined Joint Task Force–Iraq (CJTF-Iraq).104 CFLCC assumed that while conducting stability and support operations there would be asymmetric threats to Coalition forces, that other elements of the US Government such as the Departments of Energy and Justice would reinforce the military efforts, that US forces committed to OIF by the 1003V plan would continue to flow into Iraq after major combat operations ceased, that the bulk of the Iraqi Army would be recalled to duty at some point, and that policies and definitions of the end state to the campaign would likely change over time.105 While the planners did envision a variety of threats to Coalition forces, including sporadic resistance by Saddam loyalists, they did not assess the likelihood of an insurgency as very high.106

Based on these assumptions, the CFLCC planners developed a set of objectives for ECLIPSE II. This list included the completion of the Iraqi Army capitulation process, maintenance of law and order, security and destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction sites, detention of terrorists and war criminals, and coordination with NGOs and other agencies for support.107 To ensure it could achieve its PH IV objectives, Benson and the CFLCC planning staff prepared a troop-to-task analysis, a process that generated a minimum number of forces required to conduct a set of missions. Envisioning the central mission of Coalition forces in PH IV as constabulary in nature, the planners used information from law-enforcement institutions as a template to help them determine the proper number of troops required to secure Iraq and prepare for additional missions.108 This analysis yielded a requirement for 20 combat brigades and their supporting logistics units, a force that would approximate 125,000 combat troops and as many as 175,000 noncombat support personnel.109 In other words, Benson’s planners were recommending a force of approximately 300,000 Soldiers that, given Iraq’s estimated population of 25.5 million, would have fielded approximately 11 Soldiers for every 1,000 Iraqi residents.110 Benson’s suggested force would have given the Coalition a military presence almost twice the size of the force deployed by the British Army during its successful counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya, but less than half the density relative to Iraq’s population. The CFLCC planners envisioned the majority of these troops taking positions in or near Iraq’s cities where most of the country’s population resided. Under this plan, six brigades would become the stabilization force for Baghdad.


Finally, ECLIPSE II established a framework for the progression of postinvasion operations in Iraq. According to Benson, CFLCC’s plan for what they termed “post-hostilities stability and support operations” was nested under CENTCOM’s Phase IVa.111 The CFLCC planners further separated those operations into three stages. In the first stage, CFLCC would position its forces across Iraq and begin working with ORHA to establish the foundations of a stable environment in Iraq. This period would give way to stage II in which CFLCC would focus fully on stability and support operations while allowing ORHA to emerge as the lead Coalition authority for postinvasion operations. Finally, in stage III, CFLCC would transition its authority for military operations to CJTF-Iraq and redeploy most of its forces. ORHA would remain as the lead Coalition agency, providing direction to CJTF-Iraq and its units.

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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