November 21, 2003

What Did We Learn, Part II

I was recently privileged enough to attend a talk by a staff member of CENTCOM (who must remain unidentified) on the subject of 'planning the war in Iraq.' At that event, I learned a great deal, some of it relevant to the rants I posted earlier. Take all of this with however much salt you wish, but the fact that it is a non-attribution talk tends to raise my estimation of its veracity and/or usefulness, actually.

Our unidentified staffer (OUS hereafter) gave an overview of the process of planning Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a brief picture of the depth and complexity of the enterprise. In so doing, s/he touched on several issues I personally found interesting. Because I"m an egotist, I'll jump to their response to my question first.

I referenced the AAR mentioned in the prior post, and asked hir if s/he had any comment on the 3ID's frustration at apparently not having any Phase IV plans or direction from 'higher HQ' (which must perforce include CENTCOM, hir organization). The response was fairly detailed and stretched over responses to several audience questions, but can be summed up as follows.

  • There were extensive Phase IV plans done by the military planners, with contingencies.
  • Phase IV as a military operation - i.e. using those plans - was not executed.
  • When asked why, OUS replied that DoD and State (and higher) wanted 'more control of the reconstrution and security operations' - i.e. didn't want the military planners to have opaque control of the process.
  • The current operations in Iraq are therefore not Phase IV of the military planners' ops; they are a mishmash of actions undertaken by the State department, the Cabinet/NSC, various NGOs, etc. etc.
  • The decision to not execute the military plans for SASO/Phase IV was made "by the President of the United States. He is the Commander in Chief." (note quotes).
  • The officer in question refused to state that the outcome (i.e. present situation in Iraq) would be any better had the military plan been executed, saying that there were assumptions made that were incorrect (by the military in their planning).
  • They did note that the lack of an integrated plan immediately following the war allowed several bad trends to accelerate (release of criminals from prisons by the outgoing regime led to safety concerns and looting which led to increased arms presence and fear among civilians which in turn led to absenteeism from critical infrastructure maintenance jobs which in turn led to more discontent...etc.) Although plans were eventually implemented, there were early lapses that squandered U.S. authority, position, and local gratitude/opinion.
  • No one expected this level of cohesion and effectiveness from the Ba'ath security forces.
This last is an interesting point, because earlier in the talk, in response to a question from another audience member, OUS had spoken of how the 'bad trends' above had led to a 'widespread discontent' and 'resistance' from the general civilian population - which was the Bush Administration's 'party line' and break with Britain's intelligence in recent weeks. The British had insisted that the recent wave of attacks was the result of a tightly organized group with lots of resources and preparation, suggesting Saddam loyalists and/or paramilitary; the Bush Admin insisted it was merely an increase in unconnected incidents from discontented locals, foreign fighters, various factions, and the like. While evidence is mounting that the actual attacks (especially the less planned and professional ones) are, in fact, being carried out by folks like this, it is also becoming clear that they are being fomented, paid, supplied and recruited by some shadowy unidentified group - the size of which is not known, but the planning, resources and 'prepositioned nature' of which can be inferred from its success rate and the continued ratcheting upward of attempted attacks despite increasing U.S. response. For OUS to openly discuss mistakes in assumptions and the importance placed on the prewar Ba'ath security forces implies that the military planners, at least, considered this sort of response a threat. When pressed, OUS admitted that the military had, in fact (in Phases III and IV - Combat Ops and SASO) planned to cope with the attempted reconstitution of an organized resistance. However, s/he denied that the military plans were designed to cope with one the size of which is currently operating. When asked why, s/he pointed out that the military plans assumed no 'gap' in the implementation of Phase IV ops, which would mean that the 'trends' would not have been allowed to develop so far.


So the reason things are so bad is the party line (they're disconnected and the result of widespread anger) and the military is saying that in their original plans, there was the assumption that a preplanned and directed resistance will be a problem.

This sounds an awful lot like the military was overridden (once more) on the basis of wishful thinking.


Posted by jbz at November 21, 2003 6:55 PM
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