By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 29, 2008
A new Army history of the service's performance in Iraq immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein faults military and civilian leaders for their planning for the war's aftermath, and it suggests that the Pentagon's current way of using troops is breaking the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.
The study, "On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign," is an unclassified and unhindered look at U.S. Army operations in Iraq from May 2003 to January 2005. That critical era of the war has drawn widespread criticism because of a failure to anticipate the rise of an Iraqi insurgency and because policymakers provided too few U.S. troops and no strategy to maintain order after Iraq's decades-old regime was overthrown.
Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese, who authored the report along with the Army's Contemporary Operations Study Team, conclude that U.S. commanders and civilian leaders were too focused on only the military victory and lacked a realistic vision of what Iraq would look like following that triumph.
"The transition to a new campaign was not well thought out, planned for, and prepared for before it began," write Wright and Reese, historians at the Army's Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. "Additionally, the assumptions about the nature of post-Saddam Iraq on which the transition was planned proved to be largely incorrect."
The results of those errors, they add, were that U.S. forces and their allies lacked an operational and strategic plan for success in Iraq, as well as the resources to carry out a plan.
Their analysis is to be released tomorrow, but the 696-page document was posted last night on the Army's Combined Arms Center's Web site. The New York Times first reported the study's findings yesterday.
The study also calls into question the focus of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on issues such as a modernization of the U.S. military, rather than on the war.
"The intense desire to continue DOD's transformation to smaller and lighter forces, to implement a perceived revolution in military affairs in the information age, and to savor the euphoria over seemingly easy successes in Afghanistan using those techniques seemed to outweigh searching through the past for insights into the future," the study reports.
It also reports that Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers have demonstrated in Iraq and Afghanistan that they "are a fully capable, and indeed, an absolutely essential part of the Army." But it warns that "the price paid by reservists and communities to sustain the long and repetitive mobilizations, however, may not be sustainable in the future."
The Army study is a follow-up to "On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom," which looked at the initiation of combat operations in Iraq through April 2003. The new work picks up from the moment President Bush announced the end of major combat operations on May 1, 2003, and goes through the January 2005 Iraqi elections. The authors make clear that the Army never thought it would need such a study, largely because few people believed the war would last much beyond 2003.