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Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan

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  • Greg Cannon
    this isn t very cheerful reading for Christmas, but I think it s very important.
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 25, 2004
      this isn't very cheerful reading for Christmas, but I
      think it's very important.


      Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan
      Major Calls Effort in Iraq 'Mediocre'

      By Thomas E. Ricks
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Saturday, December 25, 2004; Page A01

      The U.S. military invaded Iraq without a formal plan
      for occupying and stabilizing the country and this
      high-level failure continues to undercut what has been
      a "mediocre" Army effort there, an Army historian and
      strategist has concluded.

      "There was no Phase IV plan" for occupying Iraq after
      the combat phase, writes Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who
      served as an official historian of the campaign and
      later as a war planner in Iraq. While a variety of
      government offices had considered the possible
      situations that would follow a U.S. victory, Wilson
      writes, no one produced an actual document laying out
      a strategy to consolidate the victory after major
      combat operations ended.

      Looking at the chaos that followed the defeat of the
      Saddam Hussein regime, a military officer's study
      says, "The United States, its Army and its coalition
      of the willing have been playing catch-up ever since."

      "While there may have been 'plans' at the national
      level, and even within various agencies within the war
      zone, none of these 'plans' operationalized the
      problem beyond regime collapse" -- that is, laid out
      how U.S. forces would be moved and structured, Wilson
      writes in an essay that has been delivered at several
      academic conferences but not published. "There was no
      adequate operational plan for stability operations and
      support operations."

      Similar criticisms have been made before, but until
      now they have not been stated so authoritatively and
      publicly by a military insider positioned to be
      familiar with top-secret planning. During the period
      in question, from April to June 2003, Wilson was a
      researcher for the Army's Operation Iraqi Freedom
      Study Group. Then, from July 2003 to March 2004, he
      was the chief war planner for the 101st Airborne
      Division, which was stationed in northern Iraq.

      A copy of Wilson's study as presented at Cornell
      University in October was obtained by The Washington

      As a result of the failure to produce a plan, Wilson
      asserts, the U.S. military lost the dominant position
      in Iraq in the summer of 2003 and has been scrambling
      to recover ever since. "In the two to three months of
      ambiguous transition, U.S. forces slowly lost the
      momentum and the initiative . . . gained over an
      off-balanced enemy," he writes. "The United States,
      its Army and its coalition of the willing have been
      playing catch-up ever since."

      It was only in November 2003, seven months after the
      fall of Baghdad, that U.S. occupation authorities
      produced a formal "Phase IV" plan for stability
      operations, Wilson reports. Phase I covers preparation
      for combat, followed by initial operations, Phase II,
      and combat, Phase III. Post-combat operations are
      called Phase IV.

      Many in the Army have blamed Defense Secretary Donald
      H. Rumsfeld and other top Pentagon civilians for the
      unexpectedly difficult occupation of Iraq, but Wilson
      reserves his toughest criticism for Army commanders
      who, he concludes, failed to grasp the strategic
      situation in Iraq and so not did not plan properly for
      victory. He concludes that those who planned the war
      suffered from "stunted learning and a reluctance to

      Army commanders still misunderstand the strategic
      problem they face and therefore are still pursuing a
      flawed approach, writes Wilson, who is scheduled to
      teach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point next
      year. "Plainly stated, the 'western coalition' failed,
      and continues to fail, to see Operation Iraqi Freedom
      in its fullness," he asserts.

      "Reluctance in even defining the situation . . . is
      perhaps the most telling indicator of a collective
      cognitive dissidence on part of the U.S. Army to
      recognize a war of rebellion, a people's war, even
      when they were fighting it," he comments.

      Because of this failure, Wilson concludes, the U.S.
      military remains "perhaps in peril of losing the
      'war,' even after supposedly winning it."

      Overall, he grades the U.S. military performance in
      Iraq as "mediocre."

      Wilson's essay amounts to an indictment of the
      education and performance of senior U.S. officials
      involved in the war. "U.S. war planners, practitioners
      and the civilian leadership conceived of the war far
      too narrowly" and tended to think of operations after
      the invasion "as someone else's mission," he says. In
      fact, Wilson says, those later operations were
      critical because they were needed to win the war
      rather than just decapitate Saddam Hussein's

      Air Force Capt. Chris Karns, a spokesman for the U.S.
      Central Command, which as the U.S. military
      headquarters for the Middle East oversaw planning for
      the war in Iraq, said, "A formal Phase IV plan did
      exist." He said he could not explain how Wilson came
      to a different conclusion.

      Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who as chief of the Central
      Command led the war planning in 2002 and 2003, states
      in his recent memoir, "American Soldier," that
      throughout the planning for the invasion of Iraq,
      Phase IV stability operations were discussed.
      Occupation problems "commanded hours and days of
      discussion and debate among CENTCOM planners and
      Washington officials," he adds. At another point, he
      states, "I was confident in the Phase IV plan."

      Asked about other officers' reaction to his essay,
      Wilson said in an e-mail Monday, "What active-duty
      feedback I have received (from military officers
      attending the conferences) has been relatively
      positive," with "general agreement with the premises I
      offer in the work."

      He said he has no plans to publish the essay, in part
      because he would expect difficulty in getting the
      Army's approval, but said he did not object to having
      it written about. "I think this is something that has
      to get out, so it can be considered," he said in a
      telephone interview. "There actually is something we
      can fix here, in terms of operational planning."

      In his analysis of U.S. military operations in 2003 in
      northern Iraq, Wilson also touches on another
      continuing criticism of the Bush administration's
      handling of Iraq -- the number of troops there. "The
      scarcity of available 'combat power' . . . greatly
      complicated the situation," he states.

      Wilson contends that a lack of sufficient troops was a
      consequence of the earlier, larger problem of failing
      to understand that prevailing in Iraq involved more
      than just removing Hussein. "This overly simplistic
      conception of the 'war' led to a cascading
      undercutting of the war effort: too few troops, too
      little coordination with civilian and
      governmental/non-governmental agencies . . . and too
      little allotted time to achieve 'success,' " he
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