Army's Official Iraq War Report Cites Poor Planning

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"On Point II" is described as the first historical study of the campaign in Iraq in the 18 months following the overthrow of the Baathist regime in April 2003. It is available for download as a PDF file through the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center.

The Army's new official history of the Iraq war says its senior leaders failed to properly plan for the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. It's a conclusion that others have reached before. But this time, the Army — in a 700-page book released today — is criticizing itself.

Shortly after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Gen. Tommy Franks, may have sealed the U.S. military's fate in Iraq for the next four years.

Franks ordered the team that led the invasion — the Coalition Forces Land Component Command, or CFLCC — to leave Baghdad and to set up shop in Kuwait.

CFLCC was an operational unit run by some ovf the Army's most experienced commanders, known as "the dream team" among senior officers, including Gen. Jack Keane, who was the Army's vice chief of staff at the time.

"They had been together for about eight or nine months, almost a year, in preparing for the war, then executed the invasion, and now they were going to move to Kuwait and essentially just be a support headquarters. It seemed to be, in my judgment, very ill-advised to do something like that," Keane said.

With CFLCC in Kuwait, Franks assigned the Army's Fifth Corps to take its place. The only problem was that Fifth Corps was a tactical unit, trained to fight and defeat Saddam Hussein's army.

"It was a very conscious decision that was made by General Franks to do that, because in my assessment, he believed that the war was over and that most of the forces would be out by August. And therefore, he just needed a caretaker headquarters, if you will, on the ground to manage the redeployment of forces," said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the Fifth Corps commander at the time.

Sanchez's headquarters was understaffed and ill-equipped to handle what unfolded in Iraq.

"It did put us on a path during the first 18 to 24 months of having tremendous difficulties. It led to the enhanced insurgency, and to the tremendous instability that we faced in the country," Sanchez said.

The decision to place Sanchez's Fifth Corps in charge of Iraq may have been the single biggest military blunder after the fall of Baghdad, according to the Army's new official history of the war.

Franks was not available for comment.

The book, released today, is based on interviews with 200 senior Army officers involved in the invasion and its aftermath.

It's an attempt to expose the mistakes that were made — in the hope that they won't be repeated by future officers.

Retired Gen. Bob Scales, a former Army historian himself, says the book is remarkably candid. He calls it a "chronicle of failure."

"The Army's got a strong internal culture of self-criticism. Hidden from the general population is the passion and often the vitriol that goes on, particularly among and between officers, particularly general officers, over the conduct of operations," Scales said.

While the book doesn't single out specific officers for criticism, it is hardly a ringing endorsement of the general officer corps — generals, the report implies, who failed to insist on better post-invasion planning.

"I think we could have asked tougher questions. ... Why didn't we ask 'What happens if the regime doesn't surrender?' " Keane said.

The next installment of the Army's official Iraq war history is due out in about a year.