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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

To understand any military campaign, one must first recognize how the military forces involved organized themselves and led their Soldiers. This is, perhaps, more important to comprehending modern military campaigns because of the remarkable growth in the size and complexity of armies over the last two centuries, and the corresponding increase in the headquarters and supporting elements that command and control these massive organizations. Command relationships and structures, especially in the modern period, have always affected the military’s ability to execute and achieve the overall objectives of a campaign or a war. Awareness of the Coalition’s military command structure in Iraq after May 2003 as well as how that command evolved and, in turn, affected operations is essential to any study of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF).

The US Central Command (CENTCOM), based at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, commanded all the Coalition forces that launched OIF in March 2003. Faced with this responsibility and simultaneously commanding ongoing operations in Afghanistan, the CENTCOM commander, General Tommy Franks, tasked subordinate headquarters with responsibility for various portions of the OIF campaign. Thus, US Third Army, an operational-level headquarters under the command of US Army Lieutenant General David McKiernan, served as the Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) and had responsibility for planning and conducting land operations in Iraq. Similarly, Franks allocated responsibility for all air operations to the Combined Forces Air Component Command (CFACC) under US Air Force Lieutenant General T. Michael Moseley. Special Operations Forces (SOF) found themselves under the command of the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command (CFSOCC) under Brigadier General Gary L. Harrell.

CENTCOM and CFLCC commanders and planners understood this command structure would change once the Coalition defeated the Saddam regime. In its ECLIPSE II plan, CFLCC made rudimentary plans for Phase IV or postconflict operations once the regime was toppled, and then, after a relatively brief period, to transition with a follow-on headquarters, known first as Combined Joint Task Force–Iraq (CJTF-Iraq) and then as Combined Joint Task Force–7 (CJTF-7) (see chapter 2). Neither the US Department of Defense (DOD) nor CENTCOM, however, developed the actual structure for this follow-on headquarters until after the land campaign began in March 2003. Thus, when the Baathist regime fell in April, most of the planning for this transfer of responsibility had been left undone.

This difficult transition in command, explained in detail throughout this chapter, was only the most visible challenge the US Army faced in its effort to reorganize and reorient for a new type of campaign. Just as important were the evolving relationships between the Coalition’s military headquarters and its political command, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The emergence of Iraqi governing bodies and Iraqi security force commands further complicated the establishment of a clear, well-functioning system of command and control that could establish and maintain unity of command and unity of effort in Iraq.


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





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