- What enduring security challenges and political constraints in either Baghdad or Washington impacted transition planning and execution?
- How was the final transition planned and managed?
- What plans, operations, and activities were designed to enhance the capacity of the government of Iraq, U.S. embassy, and the newly created Office of Security Cooperation to help ensure their success on the departure of U.S. military forces?
- How did U.S. Forces – Iraq and Embassy Baghdad execute the final transition, and what were the results?
- What strategic and policy lessons can be gleaned from this experience that could be useful to future transitions?
Over the course of the U.S. engagement in Iraq, the U.S. military managed hundreds of bases and facilities and used millions of pieces of equipment. The military was not only involved with security-related activities but also assisted in political and economic functions the host nation government or other U.S. departments would normally perform. A 2010 assessment identified that responsibility for 431 activities would need to be handed off to the government of Iraq, the U.S. embassy, U.S. Central Command, or other U.S. government departments. Ending the U.S. war in Iraq would also require redeploying over 100,000 military and civilian personnel and moving or transferring ownership of over a million pieces of property, including facilities, in accordance with U.S. and Iraqi laws, national policy, and DoD requirements. This book looks at the planning and execution of this transition, using information gathered from historical documents and interviews with key players. It examines efforts to help Iraq build the capacity necessary to manage its own security absent a U.S. military presence. It also looks at the complications that arose from uncertainty over just how much of a presence the United States would continue to have beyond 2011 and how various posttransition objectives would be advanced. The authors also examine efforts to create an embassy intended to survive in a hostile environment by being entirely self-sufficient, performing missions the military previously performed. The authors draw lessons from these events that can help plan for ending future wars.
Security Challenges Are Expected to Endure
- Iraq faces enduring challenges that will test its ability to maintain the level of security necessary for sustained political and democratic development.
- The security challenges include internal struggles for power, insufficient institutional capacity, continuing activities of violent extremist groups, and malevolent activities supported by external state and nonstate actors.
Strategic and Policy Uncertainties Hindered Planning and Execution of the Transition
- While it was clear in 2009 that USF-I would not be able to achieve campaign plan goals and objectives by the end of mission in 2011, no national level strategic reassessment was conducted to define success.
- Uncertainties about possible posttransition troop presence negatively affected all aspects of the transition planning and execution.
- The transition plan did not include planning for the political transitions that would occur within Iraq and between the United States and Iraq.
The "Expeditionary Embassy" Concept Proved Unworkable and Unsustainable
- Not since Vietnam has the United States left an embassy in a zone of conflict after a large-scale military operation.
- Efforts to provide paramilitary security capabilities to the "expeditionary embassy" created a footprint that was larger than either the United States or the government of Iraq was willing to sustain and exceeded the authorities Iraq was willing to grant.
- Because an embassy operates under the Vienna Conventions, it is more important to establish new authorities with the host government than it is to create robust paramilitary capabilities that are neither usable nor sustainable.
- Policymakers should initiate a multiagency planning process under the direction of the national security staff well in advance of the anticipated end of a large-scale operation and transition to a civilian-led mission.
- Policymakers should secure congressional support for the nature and costs of a civilian mission well before military forces depart in conjunction with normal budget cycles.
- Policymakers should engage with the host nation as early as possible to determine the scope and functions of the civilian mission and negotiate necessary agreements and authorities consistent with the Vienna Conventions.
- Planners both in theater and in Washington should fundamentally reassess the campaign goals and objectives well before the departure of forces, recognizing that previously established goals likely will not be achieved by the end of the transition process.
- In determining what to equipment to leave behind, policymakers and planners should assess the ability of the host nation to effectively use and sustain that equipment.
- Pretransition planning should be launched several years ahead of the transition deadline, led jointly by a general officer and a senior civilian, staffed with capable planners who are not involved in current operations, and granted all necessary authorities.
- Policymakers should establish a central office for managing all contracts and contractors in country.
- Transition planners should undertake a systematic knowledge management survey and ensure that all vital information remains accessible to the follow-on civilian mission.
- Policymakers should resist the temptation to delay final decisions on ending operations to avoid a "waterfall" exit of troops, contractors, and equipment.
The research described in this report was prepared for United States Forces–Iraq. The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.
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