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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 II

Transition to a New Campaign

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


Political-Military Relations II: From ORHA to the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council

In mid-April 2003 Vice President Richard Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz contacted former Ambassador Bremer to serve as the senior American official in Iraq. Bremer would replace Garner and Khalilzad in leading Coalition efforts to help shape the new Iraq. President Bush publicly announced the decision on 6 May 2003, 17 days after Garner arrived in Baghdad as the head of ORHA.74 The CPA’s stated mission was to “restore conditions of safety and stability, to create conditions in which the Iraqi people can safely determine their own political future, and facilitate economic recovery, sustainable reconstruction and development.”75 The US Government never issued a formal order dissolving the ORHA. Some of its staff members joined the CPA, and Garner returned to civilian life.76

Creation of the CPA signaled to the world that the United States was going to assume responsibility as an occupying power over Iraq under the Hague and Geneva Conventions until a new government could be formed. Though reluctant to use the phrase “occupying power” because of its cultural connotations in the Middle East, the United States and the United Kingdom registered their intentions in an 8 May 2003 letter to the United Nations (UN) Security Council.† The new Coalition political headquarters symbolized an American commitment that was far greater than that assumed when policymakers offered their initial visions of OIF. In his initial meeting with President Bush, the Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Bremer insisted on unity of command in Iraq. He recounted that after the meeting, “The message was clear. I was neither Rumsfeld’s nor Powell’s man. I was the President’s man.”77 Bremer believed he reported directly to the President and noted that some began calling him the “American viceroy” in Iraq.78 Officially, however, the CPA chief was subordinate to the Secretary of Defense, as were US military forces in Iraq.‡

Bremer arrived in Baghdad on 12 May 2003 after meeting with Garner the night before in Kuwait. On the morning of 13 May 2003, the CPA and Bremer formally replaced ORHA and Garner, 4 months after ORHA was created and only 22 days after it had entered Baghdad. Bremer immediately put his stamp on the nature of post-Saddam Iraq and on the relationship between the CPA and US military forces in Iraq. He issued CPA Regulation No. 1 on 16 May 2003, which stated:

The CPA shall exercise powers of government temporarily in order to provide for the effective administration of Iraq during the period of transitional administration, to restore conditions of security and stability, to create conditions in which the Iraqi people can freely determine their own political future. . . . The CPA is vested with all executive, legislative and judicial authority necessary to achieve its objectives.79

This declaration and others regarding law and order and administration of Iraq were in compliance with international law governing military occupations, which required an occupying power to take certain measures to establish a safe and secure environment for all persons under its control. International law also requires the civilian population to behave peacefully, to take no part in continuing hostilities, and to not interfere with the operations of the occupying power.80

The regulation also underlined the CPA’s limited authority over military forces in Iraq and the resources they controlled: “As the Commander of Coalition Forces, the Commander of US Central Command shall directly support the CPA by deterring hostilities; maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity and security; searching for, securing and destroying weapons of mass destruction; and assisting in carrying out Coalition policy generally.”81 Thus, with Regulation No. 1, Bremer established an ambitious set of objectives and a broad set of responsibilities for the CPA. But his organization was utterly lacking in people, organization, and resources for the mission. The interagency process of the US Government was simply not prepared to support the CPA in May 2003 with the personnel and expertise required by the situation in Iraq. Nor did the CPA have authority over the military instrument of national power in Iraq, the most important means of achieving the CPA’s mandate in the absence of other national resources.

Security in Iraq was on Bremer’s agenda from the very first day. As early as 14 May 2003, Bremer had begun discussing the need for CFLCC forces to take a more active role in restoring law and order with Lieutenant General McKiernan and Lieutenant General Abizaid. Both men promised to change the ROE that governed the actions of American Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and have US forces take the appropriate measures.82 CFLCC had already issued an order for US forces to stop the looting on 1 May 2003, but the ROE had not been fully developed and US forces were focused on deploying into Iraq, spreading out into the country, and conducting sporadic combat operations.

Bremer wasted no time in establishing his relationship with military forces. Unlike the informal relationship between ORHA and CFLCC, the CPA was the preeminent US authority in Iraq. The future military headquarters in Iraq, CJTF-7, reported directly to CENTCOM headquarters, with the mission of providing direct support to the CPA, which reported to DOD. This dual chain of command understandably caused friction—some personal and some functional—between the staffs of the CPA, ORHA, CFLCC, and V Corps as they tried to sort out their respective roles, relationships, and priorities in the midst of continued fighting and the collapse of Iraqi governance between mid-April and late May.83

Some of this friction stemmed from the earliest days of the CPA. According to some parties present, the first thing Bremer said at V Corps headquarters in Baghdad was, “You all work for me.”84 Sanchez, though not present at the time, heard credible accounts of this blunt statement and believed it set a particular tone, “So it started out fairly rough and it didn’t help that he completely cut out McKiernan and Wallace when he said, ?I don’t want to deal with you guys. I want to deal with Sanchez.’”85 While this was realistic recognition of the command hierarchy with whom he would have to work, Bremer’s demeanor further increased the divide between the CFLCC staff—who were beginning to redeploy—and V Corps whose units were still fighting and whose staff was preparing to take over all military operations in Iraq.

Despite the frosty introduction between Bremer, McKiernan, and Wallace in May 2003, Sanchez and Bremer would forge a reasonable working relationship in Iraq. They would have frequent disagreements about policy decisions over the next year. However, on a personal level, they got along well during and after their time in Iraq.86 Sanchez understood that the principal role of CJTF-7 was direct support of the CPA. This was a major change from the original guidance from CENTCOM, which directed the military’s postconflict headquarters to provide only limited assistance to the CPA in post-Saddam Iraq. Recalling the initial CENTCOM guidance, Sanchez noted that he took a different approach based on how he understood the overall military mission in Iraq: “In reading the direct support mission that had been issued to [CJTF-7], I changed that [from limited support]; the implied task was to make CPA successful and, therefore, we pumped significant amounts of resources into the CPA.”87

CPA’s late creation, small size, short-term staff rotations, and fragmented arrival into Iraq meant that Bremer did not have the capacity he needed to function as the headquarters of an occupying power. One result of its late creation and lack of planning capacity was that rather than arriving in Baghdad with the equivalent of a campaign plan, Bremer and his staff took over a month to create a vision statement that contained the broad outlines and objectives of the CPA mission.88 The CJTF-7 staff was also underresourced, but by virtue of its units and Soldiers, it had the type of presence across the country that the CPA dearly sought. That reach also meant, however, that US Army units faced daily problems, which required decisions and actions. Confronted with the lack of CPA staff presence and specific policy guidance in the many provinces of Iraq, some Soldiers began to dismiss the CPA as irrelevant outside the environs of Baghdad. This judgment was perhaps unfair; but in the spring and summer of 2003, the reach of the CPA did not extend much beyond the Iraqi capital.

The informal culture and lack of formal staffing processes within the CPA also clashed directly with the disciplined military decision-making process (MDMP) of the Army. Sanchez and his staff felt continually frustrated by what they perceived to be arrogant and informal staffing of key issues by CPA officials, many of whom came from the State Department and other agencies outside the DOD community. One officer who served with CJTF-7 in 2004 described some CPA meetings between former ambassadors and their staffers as being “more akin to professors having a discussion with graduate students than anything resembling the [MDMP].”89 Military officials tended to see the CPA process as shallow and lacking in the understanding of the full range of actions needed to prepare, implement, and monitor the effects of major policy issues. While CJTF-7 would begin integrating its staff with that of the CPA in June 2003, it is clear that a cultural gap continued to divide the two organizations. As one military officer attached to the CPA put it, “State is from Venus and DOD is from Mars.”90 An exception to this general culture clash appears to have been the linkage between division commanders and regional CPA officials who worked closely together in the country’s provinces later in 2003. Still, military officials tended to view the CPA as lacking in the resources required to make significant change in Iraq. Sanchez later noted, somewhat uncharitably, that CPA had all the authority in Iraq, but little responsibility for and no capacity to carry out its policy decisions.91

The very real limitations of the CPA shaped the manner in which the Coalition approached many issues. Perhaps the best example was the CPA’s program for establishing new Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that would include an army and police forces. The issue of training the ISF emerged as a major point of contention between CJTF-7 and the CPA. Bremer and the CPA were keenly interested in having Coalition military forces establish law and order in the country, but did not plan to have them involved in creating the ISF. Despite the severe lack of capacity to create the ISF, Bremer retained complete responsibility for those functions until a major policy change in the spring of 2004, refusing offers by CJTF-7 to take over those missions or even to assist. As later chapters will show, CJTF-7’s forces took certain actions out of necessity that ran counter to this official division of labor.92

†Security Council Resolution 1483, 22 May 2003, recognized the United States and the United Kingdom as occupying powers in Iraq.

‡As will be discussed later in this chapter, the CPA was removed from the DOD’s chain of command in November 2003 and began reporting directly to the National Security Council.

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

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