UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

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

Part II

Transition to a New Campaign

Chapter 4
Leading the New Campaign: Transitions in Command and Control in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM


Political-Military Relations I: The Short Reign of ORHA

On 1 April 2003 Lieutenant General (Retired) Jay Garner and his ORHA team had been in Kuwait for about 2 weeks, its staff still assembling as the fighting moved rapidly northward toward Baghdad. Since 20 January 2003 ORHA had served as the US Government’s organization designated to lead postwar Iraq until Iraqis could form a new government. When that moment arrived, ORHA planned to hand off its mission to a new diplomatic entity or embassy in as little as a few months.56 CENTCOM and CFLCC prewar plans assumed that military forces would receive strategic guidance from ORHA once major fighting ended and postconflict operations began. In the chain of command, Garner reported directly to the Secretary of Defense. Once he received his authority and mission from Secretary Rumsfeld, Garner and his fledgling staff developed four “pillars” to guide ORHA’s work: reconstruction, humanitarian affairs, civil administration, and an expeditionary staff to handle logistics and security.

Using his connections with military and civilians in Government service, Garner had moved quickly to assemble a staff:

I briefed Rumsfeld and he concurred with [the staff structure]. I took it to Condoleezza Rice and told her that I needed to exercise the President’s Decision Memorandum and get the interagency to provide the people. So she called a deputies meeting and she brought in all the deputies of each interagency. There was Wolfowitz from Defense, Armitage from State, and so on, and I gave all of them a copy of that chart and all the functions. I briefed them on it and they asked a few questions. Then they all went back and sent me people and they all sent me absolutely superb people. I didn’t get a C Team. I got an A Team.57

The nucleus of Garner’s “A team” formed in February and early March 2003. By the time ORHA departed for Kuwait in mid-March, he had approximately 250 people on his staff. Although interagency conflict inside the Bush administration created friction in the formation of ORHA, the organization continued growing and had 400 staffers by the time it reached Baghdad in late April.58

As its name indicated, ORHA focused on providing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. ORHA planners expected Saddam to blow up the Iraqi oil fields in a reprise of his actions in the 1991 Iraq War. Garner also expected massive refugee problems as people fled the fighting. That neither calamity occurred is a tribute to the stunningly rapid success of Coalition military forces and to Iraqis who refused to sabotage their country’s resources.59 Unfortunately, a series of calamities far worse than oil field fires soon engulfed Iraq.

Outside of the humanitarian and reconstruction mission, Garner had little guidance. ORHA’s uncertain relationship with CENTCOM contributed to the vague planning and coordination of efforts for post-Saddam Iraq. According to Colonel Mike Fitzgerald, CENTCOM’s deputy CJ5 planner:

The only [ORHA-related] document that I ever saw was the one to two page document that said these are your essential tasks. It didn’t tell him [Garner] where he was lined up in the chain of command and who he responded to. So a lot of energy was expended trying to get them embedded in planning, to understand the relationships, and to bring people together, that could have been resolved up front . . . with a document that clearly stated what their charter was, who they worked for, and what their relationship was with the CENTCOM commander.60

General Keane had similar concerns about Garner’s authority in the spring of 2003 when DOD formed ORHA. After a briefing from Garner at the Pentagon, Keane recounted, “I asked him who he was working for and he said that he was working for Secretary Rumsfeld. I said, goddamn it, Jay, that is the wrong answer. Every damn time we don’t have unity of command. You should be working for one guy and one guy only, and that is Franks.”61 Garner suggested to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, that ORHA should fall under the command of a sub-unified military headquarters in Iraq that would function alongside a diplomatic mission under Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The civilian DOD leadership did not agree, though in June 2004, the Coalition created a military/political command that followed this recommended structure.62

When ORHA began deploying to Kuwait in March 2003, just days before the invasion began, it was clear to many senior staff officers that Garner’s organization was not in a position of leadership. ORHA personnel were not provided housing or offices at Camp Doha where CFLCC had its headquarters. In Kuwait, ORHA staffers, CFLCC planners, and the soon to be disbanded CJTF-IV, found themselves uttering a collective “who the hell are you guys,” according to one member of Garner’s team.63 Major General Webster, the CFLCC deputy commander, echoed that sentiment, noting that CFLCC did not have a formal relationship with the ad hoc CJTF-IV staff, which arrived in Kuwait in early March. The US Joint Forces Command had sent CJTF-IV to support CENTCOM’s Phase IV planning effort, not CFLCC’s planning. Similarly, within a day of Garner’s arrival in Kuwait, Webster met with Garner and recalled that the ORHA chief said he did not need any significant assistance from CFLCC at the time. Garner thought he would have the time to get ORHA organized in Kuwait and establish relationships with international organizations and leading Iraqis long before US forces reached Baghdad. Webster also knew that Garner and ORHA reported directly to DOD and coordinated with CENTCOM and General Franks.64 Thus, ORHA and CFLCC did not develop a close relationship. Even if Garner had sought tighter coordination with CFLCC concerning Phase IV operations, in February and March 2003 McKiernan’s staff was consumed with planning and preparing for the impending invasion of Iraq, trying to get all their forces into theater, and fending off incessant requests for changes to the deployment schedule from DOD.65

No one in the US Government ever envisioned that ORHA would become the headquarters of an occupying power—with the responsibilities inherent in that term as defined in the Hague and Geneva Conventions—for anything but the briefest period of time. Garner and his senior staff certainly did not view ORHA’s responsibilities in this light. Instead, they defined their organization as an adjunct agency that would briefly deal with anticipated humanitarian issues and assist the Iraqis in quickly taking responsibility for their own affairs.66 Accordingly, one of Jay Garner’s first moves once he arrived in Iraq was to hold a meeting with representatives of various Iraqi tribes, ethnic groups, and religious leaders at the ruins of the Biblical city of Ur, a few miles from An Nasiriyah, on 15 April 2003. He had previously dispatched a team to Basrah on 27 March to work with forces from the United Kingdom (UK) in the south, and sent a team on 7 April 2003 to Irbil in northern Iraq to coordinate with Kurdish leaders.67

After personally asking General Franks for transportation and a security escort, Garner arrived in Baghdad on 21 April 2003. Along with Presidential Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Garner made plans to host a second conference in Baghdad. On 22 April 2003 Garner flew north to As Sulaymaniyah and met with Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The following day he met in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. After the ORHA chief arranged safe passage for the Kurdish leaders, they met on 28 April in Baghdad with expatriate Shia leader Ahmed Chalabi, expatriate Sunni leader Adnan Pachachi, the secular Shia expatriate Ayad Allawi, and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim. In the background, sporadic fighting still echoed throughout the city while looters methodically dismantled nearly every unoccupied manifestation of the former government.

The series of meetings with Iraqi leaders, however, generated neither a functioning government in April 2003 or even an agreement on how to form one. Talabani himself blamed the failure on Iraqi leaders bent on dividing the spoils of war. Other problems surfaced as the expected aid and military forces from other nations did not immediately materialize. A British official confidentially warned Prime Minister Tony Blair in early May that the Coalition was losing popular support.68 ORHA’s staff of 400 finally made it to Baghdad on 24 April 2003, and on that very day, the Secretary of Defense notified Garner that he was replacing ORHA with the CPA led by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III. Bremer would arrive in May with much greater authority than ORHA and a much different mandate for the future of Iraq.

Despite the unexpected news, Garner continued to work in Baghdad. ORHA had planned to restart almost all of the ministries in the Iraqi Government as they existed under Saddam, with the exceptions of the Ministries of Propaganda and Intelligence. But in late April and early May, with most ministry buildings looted or destroyed and Iraqi society in chaos, he and his staff were reduced to roaming the streets of Baghdad with military escorts provided by V Corps looking for anyone who had been part of the Iraqi Government. Like most Americans involved in the planning of OIF, Garner vastly overestimated the condition of Iraq’s infrastructure.69 The buildings had been destroyed by bombing, looted down to the bare walls, and the employees had nowhere to work and no one to whom they could report.70 ORHA immediately set out to get food supplies moving again, restore electricity, and reestablish the destroyed telecommunications network in Iraq.

Garner also met with both Lieutenant General McKiernan and Lieutenant General Wallace in Baghdad, and the two military leaders agreed to provide ORHA with military escorts and security for its headquarters because of the continued fighting in Baghdad. V Corps focused on eliminating pockets of resistance in Baghdad, expanding its control out to the vast stretches of Iraq which it had not occupied, and moving its still arriving forces from Kuwait to Iraq. ORHA and CFLCC developed good initial working relationships, and both CFLCC and V Corps provided as much support as they could to ORHA. Garner and McKiernan agreed to match key ORHA staff members with CFLCC general officers and staff sections.71 Despite their initial understanding, CFLCC’s support to ORHA slowed once McKiernan and his staff received orders to deploy out of Iraq in May. By that time ORHA had begun thinking about redeploying to make way for Bremer and the CPA.

In retrospect, it was clear to many that ORHA and its mission had several serious flaws. Wallace recalled that ORHA was simply too small and lacked sufficient resources, explaining, “They showed up and had no capability. Jay Garner is a wonderful guy and [ORHA chief of staff] Jerry Bates is a wonderful guy . . . but they had no capability to do anything.”72 The lack of interagency planning behind the ORHA effort also appeared obvious. Wallace noted, “When Jay Garner and his folks showed up, it wasn’t the US State Department, it wasn’t Department of Agriculture, and it wasn’t the Treasury Department, it was just a bunch of former military guys trying to bridge from military to something.”73 This was not an auspicious start for the Coalition effort in Iraq. Although Wallace’s comments overlooked the ORHA staffers who came from other departments of the US Federal Government, they capture the essential problem with this aspect of prewar planning. CENTCOM and CFLCC were consumed with deploying forces to Kuwait and planning the invasion of Iraq. CJTF-IV, ORHA, and later CPA all lacked the capacity to plan for or conduct the occupation that would follow the toppling of the Saddam regime. When conditions in Iraq proved to be wildly out of synch with prewar assumptions, the effect on US military forces was immense.


Chapter 4. Leading the New Campaign: Transitions in Command and Control in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list