Tuesday, November 07, 2006

1999 Study Saw Need For 400,000 Troops To Succeed In A Future Iraq War

From The National Security Archive:

In late April 1999, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), led by Marine General Anthony Zinni (ret.), conducted a series of war games known as Desert Crossing in order to assess potential outcomes of an invasion of Iraq aimed at unseating Saddam Hussein. The documents posted here today covered the initial pre-war game planning phase from April-May 1999 through the detailed after-action reporting of June and July 1999.

The Desert Crossing war games, which amounted to a feasibility study for part of the main war plan for Iraq -- OPLAN 1003-98 -- tested "worst case" and "most likely" scenarios of a post-war, post-Saddam, Iraq. The After Action Report presented its recommendations for further planning regarding regime change in Iraq and was an interagency production assisted by the departments of defense and state, as well as the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency, among others.

The results of Desert Crossing, however, drew pessimistic conclusions regarding the immediate possible outcomes of such action. Some of these conclusions are interestingly similar to the events which actually occurred after Saddam was overthrown. The report forewarned that regime change may cause regional instability by opening the doors to "rival forces bidding for power" which, in turn, could cause societal "fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines" and antagonize "aggressive neighbors." Further, the report illuminated worries that secure borders and a restoration of civil order may not be enough to stabilize Iraq if the replacement government were perceived as weak, subservient to outside powers, or out of touch with other regional governments. An exit strategy, the report said, would also be complicated by differing visions for a post-Saddam Iraq among those involved in the conflict.

The Desert Crossing report was similarly pessimistic when discussing the nature of a new Iraqi government. If the U.S. were to establish a transitional government, it would likely encounter difficulty, some groups discussed, from a "period of widespread bloodshed in which various factions seek to eliminate their enemies." The report stressed that the creation of a democratic government in Iraq was not feasible, but a new pluralistic Iraqi government which included nationalist leaders might be possible, suggesting that nationalist leaders were a stabilizing force. Moreover, the report suggested that the U.S. role be one in which it would assist Middle Eastern governments in creating the transitional government for Iraq. ...

The planning done at the Defense Department changed Zinni's original conception in some fundamental ways. For example, Zinni proposed a civilian occupation authority with offices in all eighteen Iraqi provinces, whereas the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was actually established only in Baghdad.

(T)he former CENTCOM commander noted that his plan had called for a force of 400,000 for the invasion -- 240,000 more than what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved. "We were concerned about the ability to get in there right away, to flood the towns and villages," USA Today quoted Zinni as saying in July 2003. "We knew the initial problem would be security."


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