06 May 2008


Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategies, Approaches, Results, and Issues for Congress

In January 2003, Administration thinking coalesced around a broad post-war political process for Iraq, captured in what was universally known at the time as the “Mega-Brief.” The approach favored the State Department’s preference for a deliberate process, rather than an immediate “crowning” of a new Iraqi leadership. The process would include dismissing top Iraqi leaders but welcoming most lower-ranking officials to continue to serve; creating a senior-level Iraqi Consultative Council to serve in an advisory capacity; creating an Iraqi judicial council; holding a national census; conducting municipal elections; holding elections to a constitutional convention that would draft a constitution; carrying out a constitutional referendum; and then holding national elections. It was envisaged that the process would take years to complete.52

The “Mega-Brief” approach — adopted just as troops were conducting final rehearsals for the war — implied that many governance tasks would need to be performed by coalition (non-Iraqi) personnel, whether civilian or military, for some time to come.

52 Information from NSC staff, and Department of State and Office of the Secretary of Defense officials, 2003 and 2008. Some former Defense officials have argued that in March 2003, the President expressed support for a shorter formal occupation and an earlier naming of an official Iraqi body. Ambassador Bremer has argued that, even if that March shift took place, at the time of his own appointment to head CPA in early May, the President’s direction to him was not to hurry, but to “take the time necessary to create a stable political environment”. See Tom Ricks and Karen DeYoung, “Ex-Defense Official Assails Colleagues Over Run-Up to War,” Washington Post, March 9, 2008, which previews the book War and Decision, scheduled for release in April 2008, by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith; and L. Paul Bremer III, “Facts for Feith: CPA History,” National Review Online, March 19, 2008.

By late 2002, in the absence of detailed policy guidance, military commanders at several levels had launched “Phase IV” planning efforts, to identify and begin to prepare for potential post-war requirements. In January 2003, based on a recommendation that came out of the “Internal Look” exercise conducted in Kuwait in December 2002, Brigadier General Steve Hawkins was named to lead a new “Task Force IV.” TFIV, an ad hoc organization, was tasked to conduct post-war planning, and to prepare to deploy to Baghdad as the nucleus of a post-war headquarters. TFIV was dispatched immediately to Kuwait, to work under the operational control of the Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) — the ground forces component of CENTCOM — and its commanding general, Lieutenant General David McKiernan.58 TFIV thus provided skilled labor, but no connectivity to the still ongoing Washington policy debates about the post-war division of responsibilities.

In March 2003, CFLCC launched a dedicated post-war planning effort of its own, led by Major General Albert Whitley (UK), who was part of the CFLCC leadership. His more comprehensive effort — known as Eclipse II — benefitted from close connectivity with its sister-effort, CFLCC’s combat operations planning, but lacked direct access to the broader Washington policy debates.

In addition to lacking policy guidance about post-war roles and responsibilities, these operational-level planning efforts lacked insight into key aspects of the current state of affairs in Iraq. For example, planning assumed that Iraqis, in particular law enforcement personnel, would be available and willing to resume some civic duties on the “day after.” Also, plans did not recognize the deeply degraded status of Iraqi infrastructure, such as electricity grids.
DoD and CENTCOM believed the Iraqi military and police, stripped of their top leaders, would bear primary responsibility for reestablishing order. Planners assumed that most of the security force units would remain intact and be available for duty soon after the end of conventional operations.61 As then-National Security Adviser Rice said, “The concept was that we would defeat the army, but the institutions would hold, everything from ministries to police forces.”62 Operation Plan ECLIPSE II, the stability plan developed by the Coalition Forces Land Component Commander (CFLCC), counted on the “utilization of existing Iraqi organizations and administration.”63 Given this, CENTCOM and ORHA did not receive definitive policy guidance on the role the U.S. military was to play in public security after Hussein was removed.64