The third chapter of the U.S. Army history of the Iraq War was about the final American plans for the invasion, the continued neglect of the postwar situation, and how Saddam Hussein finally took the American threat seriously. The U.S. military was still focused upon overthrowing the Iraqi regime with the strategy for the aftermath an afterthought. By the end of 2002 Iraq finally began preparations for the coming war, but Saddam’s incompetence made them ineffective at best. That meant the war would be over quicker than the U.S. expected and they would have nothing for the next day.
The Central Command’s (CENTCOM) finally war strategy was for a quick thrust to Baghdad to overthrow Saddam. U.S. divisions would skip the southern towns, destroy the Republican Guard considered the best Iraqi forces and then take the capital. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and CENTCOM commander General Tommy Franks had many issues but one thing they both believed in was as quick a war as possible. There was to be no time wasted in seizing and securing cities. Everything was to be focused upon getting to Baghdad. This did not work out when the invasion started.
On the other hand, Rumsfeld continued to micromanage the entire process. He took control of the deployments believing that he knew better than the military. He also thought that if any unit wasn’t needed he wouldn’t send it since he always thought there were too many troops being used in the first place. That screwed up the support units and Franks and Rumsfeld both agreed not to send the 1st Armored Division and the 1st Cavalry Division. That didn’t affect the invasion, but it did impact the occupation as there were even fewer troops to establish security.
It wasn’t until December 2002 that Saddam believed there would be war. Still, he thought it would be like the Gulf War with a massive air campaign and then the U.S. would only seize a bit of territory. His strategy was for defensive circles to be created around Baghdad using the Republican Guard. In March 2003 Saddam was convinced the Americans attack was imminent and ordered a scorched earth policy which his commanders did not follow. The Saddam Fedayeen were sent into the cities and became their main defensive force while special units were created to carry out suicide attacks. The chief of staff of the Army General Sultan Hashim held a meeting with his commanders on the eve of the invasion and told them they would lose but it was their duty to fight as hard as they could. This destroyed morale. Saddam thought he was a military genius but he was far from one. The military knew the capabilities of the Americans and thought the concentric circles wouldn’t work but none of them said a word because they were afraid of the consequences. The result was the Iraqis still weren’t ready even when they finally got orders to prepare defenses.
The most important part of Chapter 3 was how the U.S. never seriously planned for what would happen after the invasion. It wasn’t until the summer of 2002 that the National Security Council set up a committee to deal with the issue. The State Department, the United States Agency for International Development, the Defense Department, CENTCOM, the ground forces command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others all had their own efforts as well. Few if any of them were coordinated and none of them came up with anything specific. Many created nothing more than positions papers. Many of those were based upon the false premises the Bush administration held that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators and that the Iraqi government would be up and running the day after Saddam was removed. General Tommy Franks in fact was completely uninterested in the postwar situation. Even when President Bush signed a presidential directive in January 2003 that gave the Pentagon control of postwar Iraq and created the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs that would run Iraq the situation was no better. The White House, the Defense Department and the military all wanted a quick war. That’s all that mattered. They thought afterward they could quickly leave. Even though the president wanted this war he was not personally involved in the planning and never made sure there was a substantive plan in place. He just got briefings and approved them. That would lead to the eventual failure of the U.S. occupation.
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