This was the last chapter in the U.S. Army’s first volume on the Iraq War before the Conclusion. It deals with the end of 2006 when the American military believed it would be handing over responsibilities to the Iraqis and allowing a withdrawal. Instead Iraq was in the middle of a civil war with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Maliki government actively involved on the side of Shiites. The failure of U.S. policy was due to Iraqi commander General George Casey’s continued misreading of the situation and refusing to change his strategy. The White House was also responsible for not providing any real leadership even when it finally realized things were going wrong. England was doing no better in southern Iraq.
At the end of 2006 the U.S. military was still in denial. In November it said that there was no civil war going on in Iraq even though 3 out of 4 of its civil war indicators were positive. U.S. Iraqi commander General Casey was still pushing for withdrawal arguing that Iraqis needed to solve their own problems. Even if Casey wanted more troops, he didn’t believe it was politically possible given such figures as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who wanted out of Iraq more than Casey did. From the start General Casey, backed up by his superiors Central Command head General John Abizaid and Rumsfeld, believed that America staying in Iraq only made the country dependent. As things got worse and worse and the sectarian war broke out Casey not only never changed his core belief but continued to say that things were on track for the U.S. getting out. He was simply the wrong man for the situation. He never got any push back because Rumsfeld was deft at keeping other officials out of Iraq policy and President Bush was not actively involved even though the war was one of his biggest decisions.
Other U.S. officers were much more realistic about what they were facing. In the fall of 2006 U.S. units in Baghdad were about to be pulled out and the military interviewed commanders about security. Almost all of them said the Maliki government and the Iraqi forces (ISF) were instigators of sectarian violence rather than trying to end it. The head of the 4th Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division Colonel Thomas Vail said the ISF was helping the Mahdi Army take control of east Baghdad. Colonel Michael Shields commander of the 172nd Stryker Brigade said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was facilitating the Mahdi Army and protecting its base in Sadr City. General Casey on the other hand considered PM Maliki a partner and believed he should only give him advice and not try to interfere in his decisions which at the time was to back militias to win the civil war and establish Shiite control of Baghdad and the surrounding areas. Again this came from Casey’s assumption that the Iraqis had to resolve their own issues.
The British were having similar problems in Basra. London was focused upon withdrawing as well and didn’t want to get more entangled in Iraq as a result. In July 2006 however the new commander in Iraq General Richard Shirreff thought that the British had to establish security in Basra before it left. He planned a clear, hold and build strategy called Operation Salamanca. London and Baghdad refused to support it forcing him to go to the Americans for help. Downing Street ordered him to turn down U.S. aid. That forced Shirreff to revise his plan which became Operation Sinbad. It was launched in October 2006. Without the backing of PM Maliki the 10th Division in Basra only deployed two dozen soldiers. The British cordoned off areas, set up checkpoints, and started a police training program to take over cleared areas. In December the British destroyed the Jamiat police station the headquarters of the Serious Crime Unit which was run by the Mahdi Army. The British found dozens of prisoners inside who had been tortured. Members of the Crime Unit were arrested for running death squads. Operation Sinbad ultimately failed because it didn’t have the funds for the rebuilding phase and only established temporary security. These were the same kinds of issues U.S. units ran into when they carried out operations. The British and Americans were in the exact same situation. They didn’t have the political will to improve things.
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