Tuesday, June 4, 2024

US Army In The Iraq War Volume 2 Ch 1 “Strategy In Crisis, October-December 2006


The second volume of the U.S. Army’s official history of the Iraqi War starts off with President Bush trying to come up with a new Iraq strategy. He’d been disengaged from the war and finally realized in 2006 that things were not going well. It took an extended period of time to formulate a new approach which highlighted the continued dysfunction within the White House over a conflict which was supposed to be a defining moment in the administration.

 

From 2003-2006 the official U.S. strategy in Iraq was to build up the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) so that the Americans could withdraw. The general belief amongst the Pentagon and military was that the U.S. occupation made Baghdad dependent and caused conflict between the different political parties, insurgents and militias. If the Americans left the Iraqis would be forced to solve their differences.

 

U.S. commander General George Casey was the main advocate for turning over security to Iraq and getting out. He planned on having 100,000 American troops out of the country by the end of 2006. He was fully supported by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. As the situation worsened in Iraq the two would double down on their policy and push for a quicker withdrawal.

 

By the middle of 2006 the White House discovered this policy was not working. The February 2006 bombing of the Samarra mosque had pushed Iraq into civil war. Several military operations in Baghdad had failed and General Casey actually had to call up his reserves from Kuwait and extend the tour of units in the capitol. The number of Iraqi forces had increased, the Americans started the process of withdrawing to large bases, and yet violence was escalating which went directly against the conventional thinking.

 

By the summer of 2006 U.S. officials and some think tanks began pushing for a new Iraq strategy. Some advocated for sending more U.S. troops. The process to actually come up with a new policy was time consuming with one review after another by different agencies from the National Security Council to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Even when Bush decided he was going to go with more soldiers and marines deploying to Iraq it still took weeks to flesh out the details. The White House and president finally realized they were failing in Iraq and it took around six months to make a change. That was an inexcusable delay and showed how dysfunctional Washington D.C. was.

 

By the end of December 2006 Bush had decided upon a surge of U.S. troops into Iraq but the details had still not been worked out. That allowed different actors to continue with their individual ideas whether they matched the president’s new thinking or not. New ground forces commander General Ray Odierno for instance planned for new offensive operations. General Casey presented a new plan for a quicker transfer of responsibilities to the Iraqis. New Secretary of Defense Robert Gates backed Casey. This was more wasted time with the Iraqis and American troops suffering due to the complacency of the Bush administration. It would still take weeks more for the Surge to actually be implemented.

 

SOURCES

 

Rayburn, Colonel Joel, Sobchak, Colonel Frank, Editors, The U.S. Army In The Iraq War Volume 2, Surge And Withdrawal 2007-2011, Strategic Studies institute and U.S. Army War College Press, 2019

 

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