Shortcomings in Planning for Post-Combat Period in Iraq Outlined

For Release

June 30, 2008

Efforts to adequately plan for the post-combat period in Iraq were thwarted by overly optimistic views held by top civilian leaders and a belief among military leaders that civilian authorities would be responsible for postwar operations, according to a report by RAND Corporation researchers.

The analysis, conducted for the U.S. Army, concluded that many agencies and organizations within the U.S. government identified a range of potential postwar challenges and suggested strategies for addressing them during 2002 and 2003 — prior to the invasion of Iraq by troops from the United States and its allies.

But those efforts to prepare for a wide range of challenges were undermined by two mutually reinforcing sets of assumptions that dominated planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom at the highest levels of government, according to the report:

  • Many senior policymakers in government held a set of fairly optimistic assumptions about the conditions that would emerge after major combat concluded. These assumptions tended to override counterarguments held by officials elsewhere in the government.
  • Senior military commanders assumed that civilian authorities would be responsible for the postwar period, a notion that focused the military's efforts on planning for the invasion and the execution of combat operations.

Both sets of assumptions proved wrong, highlighting the need for a new, broader approach to planning military operations and a stronger voice for the military in shaping plans for postwar operations, according to the RAND researchers.

The RAND report, titled "After Saddam: Postwar Planning and the Occupation of Iraq," examined activities through June 2004. It is one volume of an eight-volume collection of reports that the RAND Arroyo Center undertook to prepare an authoritative account of the planning and execution of combat and stability operations in Iraq. Six of the volumes are classified. The other unclassified volume is being finalized.

Authors of the report are Nora Bensahel, Olga Oliker, Keith Crane, Richard R. Brennan, Jr., Heather S. Gregg, Thomas Sullivan and Andrew Rathmell.

The RAND Arroyo Center provides objective analytic research on major policy concerns to leadership of the U.S. Army, with an emphasis on mid- to long-term policy issues intended to improve effectiveness and efficiency. The center also provides the Army with short-term assistance on urgent problems and acts as a catalyst for needed change.

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