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
Assessing Phase IV Plans for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
Clearly, the PH IV planning efforts by ORHA, the Joint Staff, and CENTCOM attest to the fact that many within the US Government and the DOD community realized the need to plan for operations after the fall of the Saddam regime. CFLCC’s ECLIPSE II represents the most detailed of these efforts. Nonetheless, as in the planning process for Operation JUST CAUSE, the emphasis within the major US commands, as well as within the DOD, was on planning the first three phases of the campaign. As stated earlier in this chapter, the Office of the Secretary of Defense focused the CENTCOM and CFLCC staffs on these phases. The CENTCOM staff spent a greater amount of time on the preparation for the staging of forces in Kuwait and initial offensive operations than it did on what might happen after the toppling of the Saddam regime.112 At the CFLCC level, Benson, the chief CFLCC planner, asserted that he was not able to induce McKiernan to spend a significant amount of time on the planning for stability and support operations. In discussing how the planning process for OIF could have been improved, Benson stated:
I would have made a much stronger case to my [commanding general] that he should have been more involved with phase IV planning during Phase III execution. . . . General McKiernan, to his credit, recognized that he only had so much energy because we were all getting really tired. He felt he needed to get through Phase III before we got into Phase IV.113
Not surprisingly, Benson felt somewhat overwhelmed by the task of PH IV operations given the lack of resources he had. He underlined the problem created by Army planners who gave most of their attention to conventional operations, saying, “We were extraordinarily focused on Phase III. There should have been more than just one Army colonel, me, really worrying about the details of Phase IV.”114
Another symptom of this tendency to concentrate resources on the first three phases of the campaign was the broad acquiescence among high-ranking officers of the incomplete planning for PH IV. Both CENTCOM and CFLCC viewed their involvement in PH IV as temporary. Colonel Michael Fitzgerald at CENTCOM and Colonel Benson at CFLCC had developed a phasing scheme in which, at some point relatively soon after the cessation of major combat operations, CFLCC would hand off authority for large-scale stability and support operations in Iraq to another headquarters.115 As previously noted, CFLCC clearly articulated this transition in the mission statements of both COBRA II and ECLIPSE II. In the former plan, that follow-on headquarters was called CJTF-Iraq; in the latter, CFLCC had renamed it CJTF-7. Yet, neither of these plans nor CENTCOM’s 1003V stated with any clarity what organization would form the core of the headquarters that would have the responsibility to reconstruct Iraq.
In fact, as April 2003 began, no one at CENTCOM or CFLCC had any concrete understanding of how and to which headquarters the campaign would be transitioned. Staff officers at CENTCOM had attempted to clarify the issue and were reportedly assured that other elements of the US Government would handle the larger issues involved in planning for and executing PH IV operations.116 And to some degree, clarification arrived with the establishment of ORHA and the coordination ORHA accomplished with the CFLCC staff in the month before the invasion began. However, Colonel Fitzgerald explained that ORHA’s arrival in Kuwait in March 2003 raised as many issues as it solved.117 Fitzgerald contended that neither ORHA’s mission nor its relationship to CENTCOM was well defined. More importantly, ORHA was not resourced to provide the type of planning and oversight required in Iraq during PH IV.
In any case, the emergence of ORHA did not address the other critical question concerning CFLCC’s posthostilities phase: What military headquarters would accept responsibility for PH IV once CENTCOM and CFLCC pulled out? The planners at CFLCC had conceptualized this transition and even developed a set of concrete criteria that would mark the point when it could transfer authority for military operations to the follow-on CJTF.118 Nevertheless, in the spring of 2003 all US plans were devoid of any detail about military operations in Iraq once CENTCOM and CFLCC redeployed their forces.
Attitudes, tendencies, and unaddressed issues that shaped planning at the theater-strategic and operational levels had a direct impact on the tactical-level preparation for OIF. As in Operation JUST CAUSE, the focus on conventional operations shaped how tactical headquarters designed their training and conducted overall preparation for war. Despite the fact that the CFLCC plans directed units to conduct a rolling transition to stability and support operations—which implied that at some point in the campaign tactical units conducting combat operations would transition to stability and support operations—few if any of the Soldiers in these units seemed to understand what this meant or were aware of the general CFLCC concept for PH IV operations. One telling example is the experience of Lieutenant Colonel Steve Landis, executive officer of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3d ID. Landis knew that a plan for PH IV operations existed at levels above the division headquarters, but even after those operations began in April 2003, he stated that neither his headquarters nor, in all likelihood, his division headquarters, received a copy of that plan.119
Part of the problem was that 1003V and ECLIPSE II lacked the specific taskings and guidance that would have gained the attention of staffs and commanders before the beginning of hostilities. As Fitzgerald later reflected, “You can certainly argue whether the detail was there in time to be effective and [to garner] all the resources, not just the military resources, for Phase IV.”120 Another problem was that the OPORD was formally published in April 2003, after ground operations had begun. By then, CENTCOM forces were entirely consumed with fighting their way to Baghdad, and ORHA was just beginning to deploy to Kuwait. It is not surprising that CFLCC, V Corps, and most of the Army units on the ground in Iraq and Kuwait did not exert much effort preparing to execute ECLIPSE II.121
For many tactical commanders, the lack of detail in the plan for stability and support operations was a problem caused partially by the focus on the initial tactical challenge—overthrowing the regime. As the commanding general of 101st ABN, Major General Petraeus recalled, the CFLCC plan for PH IV was “relatively general,” and that it contained “very general themes, which seemed to be sound in concept, but the meanings and the operationalizing of those themes, particularly beyond the Army and with programs and organizations and resources, again beyond the military, were not very evident to us.”122 Petraeus added that, from his perspective, the planning effort focused “primarily on the fight to Baghdad . . . and the ensuing fight that was anticipated to take place in Baghdad.”123
For those commanders who did have concerns about PH IV, the plans and rehearsals for OIF rarely provided peace of mind. Colonel Thomas Torrance, commander of 3d ID’s Division Artillery, contended that the disconnect between the planning for postinvasion operations and the real requirements of PH IV emerged several months before the war:
I can remember asking the question during our war gaming and the development of our plan, ‘Okay, we are now in Baghdad, what next?’ No real good answers came forth. I remember being at a V Corps exercise in Germany in late January and early February of 2003, I forget the gentleman’s position but I know he was a colonel who was a member of the V Corps staff, and he essentially asked the questions, ‘Who is responsible for economic development? Who is responsible for a judicial system? Who is responsible for a monetary system? Who is responsible for health care?’ I was, in my own mind, always sort of personally questioning, ‘What next? What now? Now that we are here, what now?’124
This statement captured a general truth about the lack of detailed plans. However, not all on the V Corps staff had completely ignored PH IV operations. Indeed, after the corps’ VICTORY SCRIMMAGE exercise in Germany in January 2003, Lieutenant General William S. Wallace, the corps commander, directed some of his staff officers to convene an informal conference to discuss the probable ramifications of the Coalition’s transition to the role of occupying power after the fall of the Saddam regime.125 Working with members of the 1st AD’s staff, the V Corps staff made assumptions that forecasted serious problems with looting, rioting, and general civil disorder in post-Saddam Iraq. To prepare for these potential problems, in January the corps’ Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) created draft ordinances establishing policy for scenarios in which looting and other disruptions broke out. Several of these drafts became the bases for V Corps fragmentary orders (FRAGOs) issued to subordinate units during the march to Baghdad.126
This type of staff work remained at relatively high levels. In the meantime, tactical units were preparing for war. Certainly, ECLIPSE II would provide greater detail about PH IV plans after it was published in April 2003. But for units like the 3d ID that were training for and then conducting offensive operations against Saddam’s army in this period, it seems there was little time or direction to prepare for the transition to PH IV.
Indeed, the Army units chosen to take part in OIF appear to have conducted little or no training for these operations. There were exceptions. The 2d Brigade Combat Team of 1st AD, for example, exercised with psychological operations (PSYOP) and CA units before it deployed to Kuwait.127 However, this brigade conducted the training based on its own mission analysis rather than because of specific taskings. Far more representative of the norm was the experience of Major Rod Coffey, the operations officer of the 2d Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, which served with 3d ID. The battalion commander and his staff realized their Soldiers might be involved in operations to counter looting and other civil disturbances once PH IV began, but did not redirect its critical prewar training efforts to prepare their troops for this possibility.128 Lieutenant Colonel Troy Perry, the operations officer of the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment of 4th ID, had a similar experience. In preparation for the campaign, his unit conducted a great deal of training at the National Training Center, as well as at their home station in Fort Hood, Texas. Perry stated, “None of [the training] included stability operations.”129 Deployment issues and preparing for the rapid attack to Baghdad and overthrowing the Saddam regime with a very small force against overwhelming numbers consumed nearly all the effort of joint and Army leaders at every level.
In retrospect, assessment of the planning for OIF must focus on the way the set of assumptions made by US Government officials and military commanders about the postwar situation in Iraq shaped the planning process. All military plans rest on a set of assumptions to a greater or lesser degree, and the famous dictum that “no plan survives contact with the enemy” would clearly apply in the spring of 2003. While planners can never expect their conjectures to be wholly accurate, they are supposed to make lucid, well-reasoned assumptions based on intelligence, commander’s guidance, doctrine, and policy.
In the case of OIF, the postwar situation in Iraq was severely out of line with the suppositions made at nearly every level before the war. The V Corps commander, Lieutenant General Wallace, asserted that the assumptions made by planners about the Iraqi infrastructure and society after the conflict were particularly damaging to the PH IV plan:
I believe the things that we assumed would be in place on the ground that make Phase IV operations extraordinarily easy if they are there or extraordinarily hard if they are not had most to do with Iraqi institutions and infrastructure. We made the assumption that some of those institutions and some of that infrastructure would be in place upon our arrival, regardless of the presence of the regime or not. The criticality of those assumptions was such that when the regime ceased to exist or ceased to dominate the areas in which we were operating, then all of those institutions and all of that infrastructure ceased to operate at the same time.130
Wallace succinctly concluded, “We had the wrong assumptions and therefore we had the wrong plan to put into play.”131
General Keane echoed Wallace’s analysis, highlighting the US Army’s inability to predict the regime’s course of action after the loss of Baghdad: “The essential problem with Phase IV was we never ever seriously considered that leaders of the regime would not surrender. If we occupied the capital and took down his military capability, essentially having physical and material control, we did not consider it a realistic option that they would continue to attack us indirectly. And shame on us for that.”132 Colonel Fitzgerald stated that the expectations about the security environment and the role of the Iraqi Army after the removal of the Baathist regime further complicated PH IV operations:
We made an assumption in the original OPLAN that there would be some level of [Iraqi] security forces, both Army and police, that could be leveraged to provide immediate local security and that it would form a core for the rebuilding of an Iraqi Army. [CPA Order Number 2, ‘The Dissolution of Entities’] . . . pretty much scuttled that and our ability to do that, in addition to the fact that standing [Iraqi military and police] elements just disintegrated.133
The issue of what would happen to the Iraqi military after Saddam’s removal is one example of assumptions not being shared or understood across the Government and the military. This study will explore this decision by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) more fully in the next chapter. For this discussion, it is important to establish that, at the CFLCC level, Colonel Benson and his planners assumed in ECLIPSE II that some form of the Iraqi Army would exist and be used by the Coalition in PH IV. ORHA chief Jay Garner also believed the Iraqi Army would remain and be employed. In fact, both he and Douglas Feith, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, have independently stated that the plan to retain the Iraqi Army was briefed to and approved by the National Security Council in March 2003.134 Garner therefore protested the decision to dissolve the Army when he heard about it in Baghdad the day it was announced by Paul Bremer, the CPA Administrator. Yet, Bremer stated in his memoirs that beginning in early May, he and senior members of the Pentagon staff, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Feith, began discussing the dissolution of the Iraqi Army.135 Bremer further noted that he briefed the decision to officials at CENTCOM and CFLCC in mid-May before announcing it publicly on 23 May 2003. Still, numerous US military and civilian leaders in Iraq at the time have written about their surprise when that announcement came.
The lack of synchronization among the many military and civilian arms of the US Government—so dramatically illustrated by the problems in coordinating the policy toward the Iraqi Army—led planners at the major commands to make inaccurate assumptions that ultimately weakened their ability to prepare for the postinvasion phase of OIF. On the most fundamental level, it is clear that during their preparation for operations in Iraq, CENTCOM and CFLCC staff officers did not plan in an environment that allowed them to coordinate and nest their work in the larger context of a shared strategic and integrated vision of the end state of the campaign. Put more simply, the US Government’s strategic end state for Iraq did not drive military planning in the way that Joint and Army doctrine prescribed.
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
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|