Chapter 2 of the U.S. Army history of the Iraq War focused upon American planning for the invasion or the lack thereof. The Central Command (CENTCOM) which oversaw the war spent far more time coming up with an invasion strategy because of the micromanagement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It constantly had to revise its plan as a result. That was one of the main reasons why the U.S. had little to nothing on what would happen afterward. There were also several faulty assumptions by the Pentagon and military about postwar Iraq. Ironically Saddam didn’t even believe war was coming in 2002. This would affect the war in two important ways. First the U.S. was heading into a long occupation of a foreign country and was completely unprepared. Second Iraq wasn’t going to put up much of a fight because Saddam didn’t think one would happen.
On the day of the September 11 terrorist attacks senior officials in the Bush administration began pushing for war against Iraq. That became policy on November 27, 2001 when Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told General Tommy Franks the head of the Central Command (CENTCOM) that the president wanted military plans for Iraq to be revised. Within a month Franks was briefing Bush on his initial ideas and the president let it be known he wanted the Iraqi ruler gone sooner rather than later. Exactly when Bush decided on war with Iraq is still a hotly debated topic because there was never a White House meeting on it. The Army history makes it clear however that he was serious about it by the winter of 2001.
CENTCOM spent months constantly changing its invasion plan because of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. The Secretary didn’t like giving direct orders to his underlines but knit picked them, questioned everything and wanted total control. He sent General Franks and CENTCOM hundreds of notes each week about what it was doing. Rumsfeld also believed in the Revolution in Military Affairs which argued that new technology could replace a large ground force in war. That meant he constantly pushed for a smaller invasion force and as quick a war as possible. The Afghanistan war reinforced these beliefs and demands. At one point Rumsfeld even claimed that two brigades and a special forces company, roughly 3,000-5,000 personnel could overthrow Saddam and a country of 25 million. This led to a huge amount of resentment and tension between the Pentagon and the military. Every time CENTCOM presented its plans Rumsfeld demanded that everything be cut.
One thing that the Pentagon and CENTCOM shared was the belief that the U.S. would not be staying in Iraq for long. The Defense Department believed that Iraqis were not loyal to Saddam and would welcome the Americans. This was reinforced by Iraqi exiles like Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. The Army history believes this was one of the biggest gaps in planning. The U.S. had focused almost exclusively on Iraq’s WMD and neglected everything else. It didn’t know that America was blamed for the sanctions and the deterioration of Iraqi society and that meant the troops wouldn’t be seen as liberators.
All the time wasted dealing with the Secretary of Defense meant that planning for postwar Iraq was completely neglected. In the summer of 2002 CENTCOM presented its latest iteration of the invasion strategy and included four stages of what would happen afterward. That included stabilization of the country, recovery, transition to security operations and then handing over power to the Iraqis and withdrawing. This was supposed to last for 32-45 months. These phases were never fleshed out. When the final war plan was issued in October 2002 there was only an outline for postwar Iraq. This would prove to be the biggest failure of the Bush administration. It wanted a war and thought it would be easy. It had no idea what it was getting into due to its own hubris and lack of serious preparation.
Finally, Iraq was doing no better. Saddam believed an uprising was the biggest threat to his regime followed by Iran and Israel. The U.S. was third on the list and even though the White House began its public relations campaign to convince the American public of war during the middle of 2002 Saddam did not take the issue seriously. That meant the Iraqi military was mostly deployed to the north and south to take care of uprisings and then in the east to face Iran. The Iraqi military was also seriously degraded by sanctions. Saddam had increased the number of overlapping security forces and created new militias to coup proof his regime. The Special Republican Guard, which was the only unit allowed into Baghdad for example was forbidden to communicate with any other force. This meant there would be no coordinated defense. Of course Saddam wasn’t even thinking about that to begin with by this point.
Rayburn, Colonel Joel, Sobchak, Colonel Frank Editors, with Godfroy, Lieutenant Colonel Jeanne, Morton, Colonel Matthew, Powell, Colonel James, Zais, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew, The U.S. Army In The Iraq War: Volume I, Invasion, Insurgency, Civil War, 2003-2006, Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press, 2019