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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 6
Detainee Operations

 

Conclusion

After April 2003 the full spectrum campaign in Iraq placed unprecedented demands on US Army units to identify those acting against Coalition and Iraqi authorities, detain as many of these individuals as possible, and interrogate those suspected of having critical information to satisfy the insatiable appetite for actionable intelligence. The result of these imperatives was the Army’s mounting of detainee operations on a massive scale. This chapter has documented that most tactical units and even some MP units lacked general preparation and training for this type of operation. Like many missions suddenly thrust on the US Army in the full spectrum campaign, the detention of Iraqis became a widespread requirement that many units at the tactical level were compelled to fill. While infantry, armor, field artillery, and other units had almost no training in how to conduct these missions, they nevertheless improvised and in most cases, did so effectively.

The consolidation of the US Army’s detainee operations occurred steadily over the course of late 2003 and 2004. Colonel Warren, CJTF-7’s SJA who had been heavily involved in laying the regulatory foundation for the detention mission, recalled that over time, the Coalition military headquarters learned which regulations, staff and organizational structures, and control measures were necessary to provide the proper legal environment for detainee operations.110 In retrospect, it is clear that in May 2003 the US Armed Forces were not prepared to conduct detainee operations on the scale that was required in Iraq. The abuses at the Abu Ghraib Prison were perhaps the most visible symptom of that lack of preparedness. However, problems with facilities, training, equipment, and administrative processes also hindered the system. Warren contended that the Coalition’s progress toward an orderly and effective detention process was slow, recalling, “It was not like we realized there was a problem and it was all fixed. It was very much an iterative process that required constant vigilance and refinement to get improvement.”111

The US Army in Iraq had little choice but to take on this deliberate process of improvement and oversight. An effective and lawful detainee system removed suspected and confirmed insurgents from areas of operation while avoiding the unnecessary alienation of the local population. Detentions also offered the possibility of interrogations, which held the promise of generating the critical HUMINT required for full spectrum operations focused on creating a more stable environment. Over the course of the 18 months that followed the fall of the Saddam regime, tens of thousands of Soldiers became involved in the operations that became an integral component in the new campaign. With very few exceptions, the men and women who conducted the Coalition’s detainee operations in this period did so with professionalism and honor.

 


Chapter 6. Detainee Operations





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