After Saddam: Prewar Planning and the Occupation of Iraq

After Saddam: Prewar Planning and the Occupation of Iraq

After Saddam: Prewar Planning and the Occupation of Iraq

After Saddam: Prewar Planning and the Occupation of Iraq


"This monograph begins by examining prewar planning efforts for postwar Iraq, in order to establish what U.S. policyrnakers expected the postwar situation to look like and what their plans were for reconstruction. The monograph then examines the role of U.S. military forces after major combat officially ended on May 1, 2003; the analysis covers this period through the end of June 2004. Finally, the monograph examines civilian efforts at reconstruction after major combat ended, focusing on the activities of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and its efforts to rebuild structures of governance, security forces, economic policy, and essential services prior to June 28, 2004, the day that the CPA dissolved and transferred authority to the Interim Iraqi Government. The authors conclude that the U.S. government was unprepared for the challenges of postwar Iraq for three reasons: a failure to challenge fundamental assumptions about postwar Iraq; ineffective interagency coordination; and the failure to assign responsibility and resources for providing security in the immediate aftermath of major combat operations."


After more than 15 months of planning, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) commenced in March 2003. Major combat operations in Iraq lasted approximately three weeks, but stabilization efforts in that country are, as of this writing, ongoing. The U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps are increasingly taxed by the demands of the continuing insurgency, with more than 100,000 troops expected to remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future. How did Iraq get to this point? Why was the United States so unprepared for the challenges of postwar Iraq?

The evidence suggests that the United States had neither the people nor the plans in place to handle the situation that arose after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Looters took to the streets, damaging much of Iraq’s infrastructure that had remained intact throughout major combat. Iraqi police and military units were nowhere to be found, having largely dispersed during combat. U.S. military forces in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country were not prepared to respond rapidly to the initial looting and subsequent large-scale public unrest. These conditions enabled the insurgency to take root, and the Army and Marine Corps have been battling the insurgents ever since.

It is not the case that no one planned for postwar Iraq. On the contrary, many agencies and organizations within the U.S. government did identify a range of possible postwar challenges in 2002 and early 2003, before major combat commenced, and suggested strategies for addressing them. Some of these ideas seem quite prescient in retrospect. Why, then, were they not incorporated into the planning process? As part of a larger study of OIF, RAND Arroyo Center examined prewar planning for postwar Iraq and the subsequent occupation, and drew lessons and recommendations from the Iraq experience.

U.S. civilian planning was driven by a particular set of assumptions, held by senior policymakers throughout the government, about the conditions that would emerge after major combat and what would be required thereafter. These assumptions—which included U.S. forces being greeted as liberators, the emergence of a stable security situation, and the continued functioning of the Iraqi government min-

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