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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 III

Toward the Objective: Building a New Iraq

Chapter 10
A Country United, Stable, and Free: US Army Governance Operations in Iraq


Good Governance: Another New Mission

While the CPA initiated the establishment of a representative government in Iraq at the national level, almost immediately after decisive combat ended Coalition soldiers on the ground began dealing with the realities of their new function as nation-builders. After the fall of Baghdad, Major General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division (101st ABN), moved north to his AOR in Ninevah province. He described a general assumption that existed among the leaders of the US Army as they considered what would happen next: “Returning Iraqi leaders and the organization called ORHA and other US and other non-US governmental agencies would materialize and take the effort forward using those Iraqi elements that remained at their posts and continued to keep their ministries and their organizations going.”17 When it became clear those expectations would not come to fruition, US Soldiers faced the heavy responsibility of rebuilding Iraq, literally from the ground up, in the immediate postwar aftermath. This duty included implementing new governance on the provincial and local levels throughout Iraq.

The US Army was not the only organization introducing political change at the local level. The CPA eventually created regional offices that helped coordinate the overall reconstruction effort. As a part of that campaign, the CPA employed the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to administer civic education programs that taught democratic principles and organizing methods to Iraqi nongovernment organizations (NGOs).18 The CPA also collaborated with CJTF-7 and its tactical units to establish and enable local government. However, Bremer’s headquarters had a relatively limited pool of personnel and funds to assist local governance initiatives.19 For this reason, Soldiers bore the heaviest portion of this effort in its early stages.

While not prepared to serve as political organizers, many units like the 101st ABN quickly organized their efforts to assist the Iraqis in creating a new system of governance. This emphasis began at the top of the command structure. During a May 2003 commanders conference in Baghdad, the V Corps staff presented a briefing that outlined the three key objectives the corps commander hoped to attain: create a secure environment, support economic development, and facilitate the establishment of local government.20 The brief then further defined the last objective as the creation of “functional, moderate, and inclusive local governments” and listed a number of key governance tasks, including the establishment of bureaucracies, identification of potential leaders, the holding of meetings, and re-opening of schools.

Once V Corps became CJTF-7 in June 2003, the new Coalition military headquarters began to organize operations along five major lines, one of which was governance.21 For much of the next year, Lieutenant General Sanchez would be involved on a daily basis with the CPA and the IGC in helping Iraq attain the goals of sovereignty and representative government. For a number of US Army divisions, this emphasis on governance led to its inclusion as a line of operation in their own campaign plans. The 4th Infantry Division (4th ID), for example, made governance one of the four pillars that structured their overall plan of operations.22 That campaign plan defined operations within this pillar as working with all Iraqi leaders and building local councils to assist Iraq gain sovereignty. The 82d Airborne Division (82d ABN) likewise identified one of their four critical capabilities as governance, describing its requirements as assisting with rule of law, elections, the judicial system, and the de-Baathification process.23 When units such as the 1st Cavalry Division (1st CAV) began operations as part of the OIF II rotation in early 2004, they inherited governance as a line of operation from the units they relieved.

Although governance became a key line of operation, very few units were prepared to conduct “governance operations” or had any thorough understanding initially of what these operations entailed. The exceptions were the Army’s Civil Affairs (CA) battalions, each of which had governance teams. The governance mission appeared to be a very good fit for the capabilities of those teams. However, as the previous chapter has established, the Coalition had not created any coherent plan for civil-military operations (CMO) that might have provided guidance, priorities, and processes for the CA teams to follow in making changes to the system of governance in Iraq. Moreover, CA teams quickly became enmeshed in providing guidance and coordination for the physical reconstruction of Iraq. Thus, in many Army units it became apparent that, like the reconstruction mission, assisting the Iraqi shift to new systems of governance was a mission Soldiers of all types would have to adopt.

Chapter 10. A Country United, Stable, and Free: US Army Governance Operations in Iraq

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