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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


The Creation of MNF-I

Lieutenant General Sanchez became the first MNF-I commander on 15 May 2004. Little changed on the day that CJTF-7 was deactivated and MNF-I came into existence. MNC-I had begun commanding the tactical and operational aspects of the command the month prior. Sanchez remained the senior US and Coalition military commander, though he now had a more robust headquarters and could focus on the strategic issues of the campaign. The mission statement for the new command also resembled CJTF-7’s mission in its focus on offensive operations:

Multi-National Force–Iraq conducts offensive operations to defeat remaining noncompliant forces and neutralize destabilizing influences in Iraq in order to create a secure environment. Multi-National Force–Iraq organizes, trains, equips, mentors, and certifies credible and capable Iraqi security forces in order to transition responsibility for security from Coalition forces to Iraqi forces. Concurrently, conducts stability operations to support the establishment of government, the restoration of essential services, and economic development in order to set the conditions for a transfer of sovereignty to designated follow-on authorities.178

During the 6 weeks of his tenure, however, Sanchez did begin the process of changing the G-staff type organization of CJTF-7 to a functional staff more appropriate to a theater-strategic level command.

On 1 July 2004, Lieutenant General Sanchez relinquished command of MNF-I to General Casey. For Sanchez, the appointment of Casey was critical in that it showed the DOD’s commitment to providing the right mix of senior leadership, manpower, and other resources to the campaign in Iraq.179 The more robust structure and staffing of MNF-I’s subordinate commands that followed Casey’s posting to Iraq were of particular importance. They gave the Coalition’s new theater-strategic headquarters in Iraq the type of capacity and capabilities that CJTF-7 had never enjoyed.

In preparation for taking command of MNF-I, Casey emphasized that his most concrete direction came from UN Resolution 1546, which sanctioned the end of the Coalition’s occupation of Iraq, directed the creation of an IIG, set a schedule for a series of elections beginning in late 2004, and called on Iraqis and all other nations to recognize the legitimacy of the new government. The political timeline entailed by the UN Resolution served as the point of departure for the new campaign plan his staff began to write in July 2004. Of course Casey and his key staff met with Sanchez and the existing MNF-I staff in Iraq. These talks acquainted the incoming MNF-I staffers with the campaign plan as it existed in late spring 2004.

Casey took command 2 days after the CPA was dissolved and Iraq became a sovereign state. Roughly 30 days later, Casey’s command had finalized a new campaign plan whose subtitle, “Partnership: From Occupation to Constitutional Elections,” revealed the Coalition’s emphasis on both political timelines and on closely assisting the Iraqis on a path toward self-determination and self-sufficiency.180 This was the fourth campaign plan employed by Coalition forces during the 18 months between the overthrow of the Saddam regime and the first Iraqi elections of January 2005. While this new plan retained some of the concepts developed by Sanchez and his staff in CJTF-7 documents, Casey’s campaign plan reflected new realities in Iraq. Issued on 5 August 2004, the MNF-I plan recognized that the Coalition was no longer an occupying power but instead supported the IIG and sought to implement the goals contained in the UN vision for Iraq. In the opening sentence of the new mission statement, MNF-I acknowledged these critical relationships:

In partnership with the Iraqi Government, MNF-I conducts full spectrum counter-insurgency operations to isolate and neutralize former regime extremists and foreign terrorists, and organizes, trains and equips Iraqi security forces in order to create a security environment that permits the completion of the UNSCR 1546 process on schedule.181

This statement revealed two other critical aspects of Casey’s conception of the military effort in Iraq. First, it introduced the term “full spectrum counterinsurgency operations” to replace “offensive operations” and “stability operations” used in the CJTF-7 plan and first MNF-I mission statement. This phrase reflected Casey’s belief, developed even before he took command of MNF-I, that the Coalition’s main obstacle in Iraq was a complex insurgency and that the focus could no longer be on offensive operations. Second, the mission statement clearly committed MNF-I to establishing the ISF. As discussed in chapter 3, Casey believed the new mission statement, especially the use of the term “full spectrum counterinsurgency operations” was critical because it clearly articulated that MNF-I was engaged in a new campaign, not just the final stages of the original COBRA II plan that guided the invasion and its aftermath. Full spectrum counterinsurgency operations emphasized the simultaneous conduct of offensive, defensive, and stability operations (already long underway) in support of a new Iraqi Government.182

In the new plan, the MNF-I staff modified the four lines of operations as developed by CJTF-7. They retained security, governance, and economic development, the latter now including all efforts to restore essential services to the Iraqi population. Casey also re-titled CJTF-7’s information operations LOO, changing it to communicating and emphasized the importance of making the Coalition military effort visible to Iraqis as well as to an international audience. The new plan stated that the main effort for the next 18 months was to make the series of elections in 2005 viable and legitimate by neutralizing the insurgency. MNF-I would focus on safe havens where insurgent groups had found refuge to plan and launch operations against Iraqi and Coalition forces. Casey specifically wanted to target the insurgents’ safe havens that had developed in the cities of An Najaf, Fallujah, Samarra, and the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City. Overall, MNF-I would focus on securing the capital and 14 other key cities, controlling Iraq’s borders, and preparing the ISF to support the elections. The key to defeating the insurgent enemy, Casey believed, was to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the Iraqi people by demonstrating the effectiveness of the new IIG.183

Casey and his planners identified two centers of gravity (COGs) in their campaign. At the strategic level, the COG was Coalition public opinion in support of the mission. Addressing that COG would give Coalition military leaders the time and resources necessary to attain their objectives in Iraq. At the operational level, the COG was the Iraqi Government, more specifically the amount of legitimacy and responsibility it held. As Casey explained:

The easy thing to say is, in counter-insurgency, the center of gravity must be the population. I took a little different view in saying that yes, the population is ultimately the one that has to be brought around, but it’s the perception of a sovereign Iraqi Government that is more likely to bring the population around than [were] our forces. . . . Throughout this whole campaign, demonstrating to the Iraqi people that this was a sovereign Iraqi Government was critically important.184

The concept of creating a sovereign secure Iraqi state was paramount in Casey’s vision for the campaign. The MNF-I commander and his staff saw the campaign moving toward a point where Iraq had become a fully independent and stable state that could defend itself from both internal and external enemies and was not a threat to its neighbors. Reaching this point defined success in the overall Coalition campaign. The 2004 MNF-I campaign plan articulated this objective in the following end state: “Iraq at peace with its neighbors, with a representative government that respects the human rights of all Iraqis and security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and to deny Iraq as a safe haven to terrorists.”185 This definition of the end state received tacit approval from senior officials in the US Government. However, some months after the publication of the campaign plan, an adjustment was made to the above statement, changing the opening phrase to read, “Iraq at peace with its neighbors and an ally in the War on Terror [emphasis added].”186 This expression of MNF-I’s objective remained the Coalition’s end state for the next 2 years.

To align the MNF-I staff to implement the new plan, Casey significantly altered the structure of his headquarters. To begin with, the MNF-I commander had three deputies who shared command responsibilities: one British deputy, one US deputy, and a deputy for detainee operations—a position that was critical after the Abu Ghraib incidents became public in the spring of 2004. Seven deputy chiefs of staff replaced the traditional G-staff sections found in a corps headquarters. Special staff sections for strategic communications, Coalition coordination, and civil-military operations augmented the more conventional sections that oversaw intelligence, logistics, and engineer operations. MNF-I also delegated authority by directing US divisions and Coalition units to report to the three-star, MNC-I headquarters, instead of reporting directly to the MNF-I commander.

Casey also reorganized the MNF-I staff to align with the creation of a sovereign Iraqi Government and the establishment of the US Embassy. He used the phrase “one team/one mission” to describe the close conceptual and practical working relationship he and Ambassador Negroponte had agreed on before assuming their respective positions. In fact, Casey felt so strongly about the military and political leadership being closely linked that he placed his office next to the ambassador’s office. After just a few weeks in command, Casey and Negroponte realized that close collaboration with the IIG meant they had to add Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to the one team/one mission mix and began to forge very close relationships with Allawi and his ministers.187 One of MNF-I’s deputy commanders as well as the chiefs of strategic plans and operations, political-military-economic affairs, and strategic communications staff sections operated with the Embassy and the IIG in the International Zone, while the remainder of the MNF-I staff operated at Camp Victory South at the Baghdad International Airport on the western outskirts of the city.

A later revision to the MNF-I structure renamed and realigned some of the staff sections along functional lines to more closely match the strategic lines of operation and to better coordinate with the functions of the US Embassy and the Iraqi Government. For example, the reorganization created several new staff sections under deputy chiefs of staff, including one for strategy, plans and assessment; one for political, military and economic effects coordination, which worked closely with the US Embassy and the IIG; and one called strategic operations that focused on security effects and force requirements.188 MNF-I also created Task Force 134, an organization headed by the deputy commanding general for detainee operations, to oversee Coalition detainee operations and coordinate with the Iraqi Government on matters concerning detainee policy and practices. MNF-I had by early 2005 become a genuine theater-strategic headquarters.

Despite the growing capability of the Coalition military headquarters and the overall military effort in Iraq, Casey believed that MNF-I units had to resist the temptation to do everything for the Iraqis. Based on his Bosnia experiences in the 1990s, Casey felt it would be self-defeating to succumb to the American tendency to do immediately what should be accomplished by local leaders and citizens, even if they took longer and were less efficient. Casey sought opportunities in each MNF-I line of operation for “the Allawi government to come together and have success in something” and to put an Iraqi face on everything the Coalition did.189 To assess progress toward meeting the campaign objectives, Casey and the MNF-I planners developed a system of goals in each line of operation and a series of metrics or measurable items for each. He established bimonthly and monthly assessment briefings to assess progress and make adjustments. The MNF-I commander tried to integrate the US Embassy and the IIG into this process, but that endeavor moved slowly. By late 2004, however, MNF-I had matured to the point where it launched a 6-month assessment aimed at revising the campaign plan for the remainder of 2005 and the key elections that would dominate that year’s effort.190

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

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