Posted by Andreas from dtm2-t9-2.mcbone.net (188.8.131.52) on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 at 5:30PM :
Posted on Fri, Jul. 11, 2003
'No real planning for postwar Iraq'
By JONATHAN S. LANDAY and WARREN P. STROBEL
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - The small circle of senior civilians in the Defense Department
who dominated planning for postwar Iraq failed to prepare for the setbacks
that have erupted over the past two months.
The officials didn't develop any real postwar plans because they believed
that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and Washington could
install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the country's leader. The Pentagon
civilians ignored CIA and State Department experts who disputed them,
resisted White House pressure to back off from their favored exile leader
and when their scenario collapsed amid increasing violence and disorder,
they had no backup plan.
Today, American forces face instability in Iraq, where they are losing
soldiers almost daily to escalating guerrilla attacks, the cost of
occupation is exploding to almost $4 billion a month and withdrawal appears
untold years away.
"There was no real planning for postwar Iraq," said a former senior U.S.
official who left government recently. The story of the flawed postwar
planning process was gathered in interviews with more than a dozen current
and former senior government officials.
One senior defense official told Knight Ridder that the failure of Pentagon
civilians to set specific objectives - short-, medium- and long-term - for
Iraq's stabilization and reconstruction after Saddam Hussein's regime fell
even left U.S. military commanders uncertain about how many and what kinds
of troops would be needed after the war.
In contrast, years before World War II ended, American planners plotted
extraordinarily detailed blueprints for administering postwar Germany and
Japan, designing everything from rebuilt economies to law enforcement and
The disenchanted U.S. officials today think the failure of the Pentagon
civilians to develop such detailed plans contributed to the chaos in
"We could have done so much better," lamented a former senior Pentagon
official, who is still a Defense Department adviser. While most officials
requested anonymity because going public could force them out of government
service, some were willing to talk on the record.
Ultimately, however, the responsibility for ensuring that post-Saddam
planning anticipated all possible complications lay with Secretary of
Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza
Rice, current and former officials said.
The Pentagon planning group, directed by Undersecretary of Defense for
Policy Douglas J. Feith, the department's No. 3 official, included hard-line
conservatives who had long advocated using the American military to
overthrow Saddam. Its day-to-day boss was William Luti, a former Navy
officer who worked for Vice President Dick Cheney before joining the
The Pentagon group insisted on doing it its way because it had a visionary
strategy that it hoped would transform Iraq into an ally of Israel, remove a
potential threat to the Persian Gulf oil trade and encircle Iran with U.S.
friends and allies. The problem was that officials at the State Department
and CIA thought the vision was badly flawed and impractical, so the Pentagon
planners simply excluded their rivals from involvement.
Feith, Luti and their advisers wanted to put Ahmad Chalabi - the
controversial Iraqi exile leader of a coalition of opposition groups - in
power in Baghdad. The Pentagon planners were convinced that Iraqis would
warmly welcome the American-led coalition and that Chalabi, who boasted of
having a secret network inside and outside the regime, and his supporters
would replace Saddam and impose order.
Feith, in a series of responses Friday to written questions, denied that the
Pentagon wanted to put Chalabi in charge. But Pentagon adviser Richard
Perle, who at the time was the chairman of the Defense Policy Board - an
influential group of outside advisers to the Pentagon - and is close to
Feith and Luti, acknowledged in an interview that installing Chalabi was the
Referring to the Chalabi scenario, Perle said: "The Department of Defense
proposed a plan that would have resulted in a substantial number of Iraqis
available to assist in the immediate postwar period." Had it been accepted,
"we'd be in much better shape today," he said.
Perle said blame for any planning failures belonged to the State Department
and other agencies that opposed the Chalabi route.
A senior administration official, who requested anonymity, said the Pentagon
officials were enamored of Chalabi because he advocated normal diplomatic
relations with Israel. They believed that would have "taken off the board"
one of the only remaining major Arab threats to Israeli security.
Moreover, Chalabi was key to containing the influence of Iran's radical
Islamic leaders in the region, because he would have provided bases in Iraq
for U.S. troops. That would complete Iran's encirclement by American
military forces around the Persian Gulf and U.S. friends in Russia and
Central Asia, he said.
But the failure to consult more widely on what to do if the Chalabi scenario
failed denied American planners the benefits of a vast reservoir of
expertise gained from peacekeeping and reconstruction in shattered nations
from Bosnia to East Timor.
As one example, the Pentagon planners ignored an eight-month-long effort led
by the State Department to prepare for the day when Saddam's dictatorship
was gone. The "Future of Iraq" project, which involved dozens of exiled
Iraqi professionals and 17 U.S. agencies, including the Pentagon, prepared
strategies for everything from drawing up a new Iraqi judicial code to
restoring the unique ecosystem of Iraq's southern marshes, which Saddam's
regime had drained.
Virtually none of the "Future of Iraq" project's work was used once Saddam
The first U.S. administrator in Iraq, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, wanted
the Future of Iraq project director, Tom Warrick, to join his staff in
Baghdad. Warrick had begun packing his bags, but Pentagon civilians vetoed
his appointment, said one current and one former official.
Meanwhile, postwar planning documents from the State Department, CIA and
elsewhere were "simply disappearing down the black hole" at the Pentagon,
said a former U.S. official with long Middle East experience who recently
returned from Iraq.
Archaeological experts who were worried about protecting Iraq's immense
cultural treasures were rebuffed in their requests for meetings before the
war. After it, Iraq's museum treasures were looted.
Responsibility for preparing for post-Saddam Iraq lay with senior officials
who supervised the Office of Special Plans, a highly secretive group of
analysts and consultants in the Pentagon's Near East/South Asia bureau. The
office was physically isolated from the rest of the bureau.
Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who retired from the Near East bureau
on July 1, said she and her colleagues were allowed little contact with the
Office of Special Plans and often were told by the officials who ran it to
ignore the State Department's concerns and views.
"We almost disemboweled State," Kwiatkowski said.
Senior State Department and White House officials verified her account and
cited many instances where officials from other agencies were excluded from
meetings or decisions.
The Chalabi plan, fiercely opposed by the CIA and the State Department, ran
into major problems.
President Bush, after meeting with Iraqi exiles in January, told aides that,
while he admired the Iraqi exiles, they wouldn't be rewarded with power in
Baghdad. "The future of this country . . . is not going to be charted by
people who sat out the sonofabitch (Saddam) in London or Cambridge,
Massachusetts," one former senior White House official quoted Bush as
After that, the White House quashed the Pentagon's plan to create - before
the war started - an Iraqi-government-in-exile that included Chalabi.
The Chalabi scheme was dealt another major blow in February, a month before
the war started, when U.S. intelligence agencies monitored him conferring
with hard-line Islamic leaders in Tehran, Iran, a State Department official
said. About the same time, an Iraqi Shiite militia that was based in Iran
and known as the Badr Brigade began moving into northern Iraq, setting off
alarm bells in Washington.
At the State Department, officials drafted a memo, titled "The Perfect
Storm," warning of a confluence of catastrophic developments that would
endanger the goals of the coming U.S. invasion.
Cheney, once a strong Chalabi backer, ordered the Pentagon to curb its
support for the exiles, the official said.
Yet Chalabi continued to receive Pentagon assistance, including backing for
a 700-man paramilitary unit. The U.S. military flew Chalabi and his men at
the height of the war from the safety of northern Iraq, which was outside
Saddam's control, to an air base outside the southern city of Nasiriyah in
expectation that he would soon take power.
Chalabi settled into a former hunting club in the fashionable Mansour
section of Baghdad. He was joined by Harold Rhode, a top Feith aide, said
the former U.S. official who recently returned from Iraq.
But Chalabi lacked popular support - graffiti in Iraq referred to "Ahmad the
Thief" - and anti-American anger was growing over the looting and anarchy
that followed Saddam's ouster.
"It was very clear that there was an expectation that the exiles would be
the core of an Iraqi interim (governing) authority," retired U.S. Ambassador
Timothy Carney said. He was in Iraq in April to help with postwar
Once Saddam's regime fell, American authorities "quickly grasped" that
Chalabi and his people couldn't take charge, Carney said.
However, the Pentagon had devised no backup plan. Numerous officials in
positions to know said that if Pentagon civilians had a detailed plan that
anticipated what could happen after Saddam fell, it was invisible to them.
Garner's team didn't even have such basics as working cell phones and
adequate transportation. And Garner was replaced in May - much earlier than
planned - by L. Paul Bremer.
In his e-mail response to questions, Feith denied that officials in his
office were instructed to ignore the concerns of other agencies and
departments. He contended that in planning for Iraq, there was a "robust
interagency process," led by the National Security Council staff at the
Feith repeated a theme that he struck in a speech Tuesday in Washington,
when he said planners prepared for "a long list of problems" that never
happened, including destruction of oil fields, Saddam's use of chemical and
biological weapons, food shortages, a collapse of the Iraqi currency and
large-scale refugee flows.
"Instead, we are facing some of the problems brought on by our very success
in the war," he said. Feith rejected criticisms that the Pentagon should
have used more troops to invade Iraq. That might have prevented postwar
looting, he said, but U.S. military commanders would have lost tactical
surprise by waiting for extra troops, and thus "might have had the other
terrible problems that we anticipated."
"War, like life in general, always involves trade-offs," Feith said. "It is
not right to assume that any current problems in Iraq can be attributed to
Other officials, while critical of the Pentagon, say it is unfair to lay
sole blame on civilians such as Feith who are working under Rumsfeld.
The former senior White House official said Rice and her deputy, Stephen
Hadley, never took the logical - if politically risky - step of
acknowledging that American troops would have to occupy Iraq for years to
stabilize and rebuild the country.
"You let him (Bush) go into this without a serious plan . . . for the
endgame," the official said. It was "staggeringly negligent on their part."
Still, the Defense Department was in charge of day-to-day postwar planning.
And the problems were numerous, the current and former officials said. Key
allies with a huge stake in Iraq's future were often left uninformed of the
details of U.S. postwar planning.
For example, the government of Turkey, which borders Iraq to the north and
was being asked by Washington to allow 60,000 American troops to invade Iraq
from its soil, peppered the U.S. government with 51 questions about postwar
The reply came in a cable Feb. 5, more than 10 pages long, from the State
Department. Largely drafted by the Pentagon, it answered many of Ankara's
queries, but on some questions, including the structure of the postwar
government in Iraq, the cable affirmed that "no decision has been made," a
senior administration official said.
The response was "still in work, still in work . . . we're still working on
that," Kwiatkowski said. "Basically an empty answer."
(Renee Schoof and researcher Tish Wells contributed to this article.)
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