Academic journal article Military Review

OIF Phase IV: A Planner's Reply to Brigadier Aylwin-Foster

Academic journal article Military Review

OIF Phase IV: A Planner's Reply to Brigadier Aylwin-Foster

Article excerpt

AN ARMY AT WAR must be able to view itself critically and learn from an internal assessment of its own experiences as well as from the observations of other professionals. The major measure of this learning effort is the ability to act on new knowledge and change patterns of action and education. British Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster's essay in the November-December 2005 Military Review did us a great service by pointing out that the U.S. Army is at a watershed in its history. Warfare is changing and we might have been slow to recognize this change. Indeed, according to Aylwin-Foster we have been so insensitive to the Iraqis in particular and Phase W-type operations in general that our cultural failings "arguably amounted to institutional racism." He maintains that we also suffer from a decrease in overall professionalism and have little to no idea about how to win the current war in Phase IV. (1)

While Aylwin-Foster was right to call attention to these critical questions and to problems the U.S. military has experienced in Iraq, his assessment is off-target, and the difference is significant. We American officers must be professional enough to learn from the observations of others, unhindered as they are by American lenses. Unquestionably, some Americans have shown too little sensitivity to Iraqi culture and the demands of counterinsurgency warfare, but in the heat of battle even those armies most experienced in counterinsurgency have been known to have problems, as the British Army demonstrated when it employed Warrior Fighting Vehicles to knock down the walls of a Basra jail to rescue two British soldiers taken prisoner by a local militia leader.

Aylwin-Foster, among others, asserts that the U.S. Army paid inadequate attention to planning for Phase IV of the campaign in Iraq. He also asserts that our Army is at a pivotal moment in its history and has been too slow to recognize the type of war we are fighting and what we need to do to set conditions for victory. I disagree with both assertions and offer a two-part counterpoint. The first part is historical. The second specifically addresses some of Aylwin-Foster's more important claims.

Planning Phase IV

My experience in planning Operation Iraqi Freedom began in July 2002. While assigned to Third U.S. Army/Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) as the C/J5, I was privileged to direct development of the range of plans for the Land Command from before operations began in March 2003 until I left CFLCC in July 2003. Aylwin-Foster is wrong in claiming that we did not plan for Phase IV. The challenge was translating the plans into action while dealing with guidance and assumptions from higher echelons of command, the deployment process, and evolving policy. As a result, our plans never quite evolved to link ground operations to logical lines of operation that would lead to setting solid military conditions for policy objectives.

The first "C" in CFLCC stands for combined. This is an important point to bear in mind. Not only did CFLCC have Marine staff members, it also had Coalition officers serving in key billets. In the C/J5 section, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Field of the Australian Army and Major Nick Elliot of the British Army had the same access to intelligence and information as U.S. officers had; indeed, these two officers led many planning groups before and after operations began.

July-December 2002. When I arrived at Third Army/CFLCC headquarters in Atlanta, all of the J5 staff were engaged in planning the decisive maneuver, or combat phase, of the campaign. Those who were not directly involved in this effort were heavily engaged in building a time-phased force-deployment list (TPFDL) from deployment data.

Our operations plan, COBRA II, was designed to cover all phases of the campaign, as outlined by Central Command (CENTCOM) Campaign Plan 1003V. Based on previous experience, I decided to establish a group of officers, small as this group might be at first, to work on a skeleton of the Phase IV portion of the major operations plan. …

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