tv CSIS Discussion on Iraq War History Panel 2 CSPAN May 13, 2019 10:31am-11:18am EDT
historical findings that are new or -- the newest i would say historical ground that our team broke covered, for example, 2005 i think in our narrative which is mostly the research work of frank sobchak here, really comes out as a pivotal year for the entire iraq war. that's the year when the theory that the invasion could lead to elections which would defeat the legitimate government which would naturally cause the stabilization, would lead to the stabilization of iraq. that was proven incorrect for writing of reasons, one of which is that in 2005 that's the year the syrian regime and the iranian regimes kicked their interference, their intervention in iraq into high idea. that's the year that the army
under resourced the campaign by sending almost half of the combat power to iraq -- >> fortunate to have colonel jim powell, one of the authors of volume two and ken pollack from a guy to talk about a time to last really from the beginning of the surge all the way to the end. we'll get out of here about 11:15 so jim will take about 15 minutes to describe his findings at and that hopefully have time for the more question and answer from all of you. just to set the stage i thought i would just outline the time as the authors found it in late 2006 because it truly a remarkable series of intersecting and complex challenges and choices that the army faces. so there are six that the authors have identified in late 2006. one, the united states distrust prime minister maliki and his or her deepening. two, there's an open question of
whether sectarian, sectarianism within the government of iraq will allow to have the will or capability to go after both al-qaeda and iraq and shia melilla tense. three, this intensive coalition warfare against shia proxies within iraq. four, there's a war between malik he and the satirists. five, the coalition and maliki tensions run high because they have opposite views of how to approach the shia militants problem. and finally, six, this is six, not, you do, not a priority, in both arab kurd tensions and aqis threats are festering with the coalition and the government of iraq lacking the means to resolve either problem. so if you can imagine trying to design a strategy to deal with those complex problems. jim will describe how that
occurred. >> thanks, seth. thanks to csis to discuss this project. in the interest of time, i'll offer four findings roughly categorized in accordance with the level of conflict that the study explores. at the level of policy or politics, the iraq war seemed to me to highlight the multiple aspects associated with maintaining reductive civil-military relations. one way to view civil-military relations is as a dialogue to online political ends with military means. and in late 2006, a time of the way in which a volley of our study aims and volume two begins, general george casey tenets of engaging in this kind of dialogue with both president george w. bush and prime minister nouri maliki. so here i am suggesting that,
first, they key to engage engat with host nation political leader constituted its own strength of civil-military relations with the set of challenges distinct from those encountered in his dealings with the u.s. chain of command. casey treated maliki as a partner, albeit one driven by a unique political calculus that concern for more than the relatively narrow scope of american military interests. this casey recognized as a delicate civil-military relationship, and he managed it at times by deferring to malik as a political leader when he, that is, casey, proceed long term benefits in so. second, in these dialogues centered on the alignment of inns and means, i think what we see in the casey maliki relationship is a case of the virgin ends, whereas in the case of casey bush relationship we
see at the virgin conception of acceptable means and the ways in which to apply those means. in the first case, i'm referring to competing visions of a picture of a future iraq. one in which stability would come through sunni-shia reconciliation, and one in which stability would come through shia dominance and sunni marginalization. in the second case, what i'm suggesting is that casey and bush shared a basic understanding of the coalition in state in iraq, but for host of reasons differed in their views on how best to achieve it. the most well-known difference centered on u.s. troop numbers and more critically the extent to which u.s. troops should
participate directly in security operations. the implications of this casey-bush divergence were a loss of leverage that undermined casey's engagement with maliki, and an atmosphere of ambiguity that made the coalition struggle for leverage over the government of iraq even harder. one of casey's advisors offered a bleak assessment of u.s. medical will in november 2006 -- political will. the iraqis know your hands are tied in washington, he wrote they want their view of iraqis society more than we want our view. and they both know this and no that you know this. casey concurred wondering with a margin note, wondering in the form of a margin note i should say, i weep we irrelevant becaf
our desire to withdraw? yet -- are we irrelevant -- the general labor sunday a a politl constraint is only imagined. bush as we know was willing to increase the number of u.s. troops in iraq in late 2006 and, in fact, eventually insisted on it. still, the president did not communicate this to casey any definitive sense until mid-december. and the result was mixed messaging to maliki who heard from casey a commitment to reduce u.s. troops and accelerate the transition of security responsibility to the iraqi government, if the prime minister took steps to advance reconciliation with the sunnis and promised to crack down on others meanwhile, bush in a private meeting with maliki offered assurances of more u.s.
troops as a way of extracting the same concession. so this ambiguity in civil-military relations i think also reinforced or at least left unchallenged casey's predisposition that committing more u.s. troops would yield at best only temporary and local benefits, and at worse might exacerbate the sectarian conflict. and it's worth mentioning that centcom commander general john and secretary of defense donald rumsfeld shared this predisposition. at the strategic level, one can explain the surge of u.s. troops in enabling forces in 2007 as a change in the alignment of inns ways and means. we often speak of strategy in those terms, and understand the strategies failure as a mismatch between the ends sought and the means applied. i think when we consider the
surge alongside the strategy of replace, you have a fairly similar conception of inns, a stable secure and openly self-reliant iraq. you have a modest to substantial increase in means and a dramatic change in ways. the shift from an emphasis on accelerated transition to an emphasis on population security was really just one plank and a raft of the changes the formed the comprehensive and different approach. i will hazard an observation here and say that both casey's transition strategy and the surge produced narratives that were internally consistent. that is to say, there was a logic to the causal chain that each narrative outlined. in the transition bridging strategy in late 2006, for example, accelerating the
transfer of security functions to iraqi control would theoretically bolster malik has credibility and help the coalition acquired the leverage necessary to cross cause the gr of iraq into advancing national recognition. this in turn would establish the foundation for long-term stability. it was as casey attempted to explain to bush how the united states could win by drawing down, yet for all its internal logic or consistency, the bridging strategy was not consistent with what iraq security environment demand in 2006. the logic of narratives sometimes works to cloud our view, and strategy doesn't mesh with reality. to be fair, the narratives of 2007 contain their own flaws. the idea that a growing patchwork of local accommodations which gradually gel international reconciliation
seemed to apply the logic of arithmetic to a calculus problem. likewise, the idea that the coalition would actually attain the conditions for irreversible momentum seems a bit fanciful in a world where most historians at least leave that nothing is inevitable. last two points will be somewhat brief period at the operational level i want to highlight the persistence of controlling key terrain as an imperative, even n counterinsurgency operations where we tend to emphasize certain functions or choose an old doctrinal term, logical lines of operational rather than physical lines of operations. the 2007 surge of u.s. combat troops and associated enablers could have been employed in any number of ways.
that commanders committed these troops in baghdad and in the surrounding belt of the capital simultaneously contributed to a pattern of reinforcing effects that eventually resulted in a dramatic reduction in violence. this deliberate choice of taking the fight to them while ramping oppression baghdad itself attacked the enemies strategy in a way that had not been done before. and finally at the tactical level, i'd like to point out a feature of relationship between ways and means, and it is this. while the means of strategy are often concrete, the ways in which commanders apply them are malleable. take joint security stations, for example. although the coalition established a preponderance of the joint security stations
throughout 2007, the first were built in late 2006 under casey's tenure as commander. casey originally envisioned a network of joint security stations as a mechanism to help baghdad's police assume control of the city as coalition forces withdrew over time. each station would serve as a base of operations any given neighborhood and coordinate the trolls of u.s. and iraqi forces both army and police. when general david petraeus assumed command in february 2007, he transformed the purpose of joint security stations to making them the mechanism by which u.s. troops would increase their presence on the streets of the capital. and then last point that i will mention, harkens back to an earlier question to a question from earlier panel, and that's
just a clarification on the approach to the development of iraqi security forces. also kind of a contrast in two models. in 2005-2006, the model -- there was a mechanism by which to develop the iraqis who could forces was primarily through military transition teams. in late 2006 this concept was going to be central to accelerating the transition to iraqi security forces by enhancing the mit teams. and so the concept was we take the mit teams that are operating in an area and we would use u.s. conventional forces or u.s. line units to provide security, enhances military transition teams, and by doing so, by
enhancing or that capability will therefore be able to accelerate the transition of these of iraqi security forces. the competing model, which was fielded really revisited and fielded in 2007, was the partnering of u.s. forces with iraqis forces. and this was made possible by the surge of u.s. units into baghdad and surrounding areas. so more units, more headquarters, , translated into the ability for those headquarters and those soldiers to partner with iraqi army and national police units in their sectors. and so you had a synergy between the partnership of units and the ongoing work of the military transition teams, which were still in place, but both of
those aspects were under the control of the brigade combat team commander in the sector. so you achieve a certain synergy, particularly as the baghdad security plan was developed and implemented. and eventually this partnership was transformed over time to the rotation of units and the standup of the u.s. advise and assist brigades. and with that i'll conclude my remarks, only adding that i acknowledge that there's much importance that it didn't discuss site side look forwarde q&a. thanks. >> thanks, seth. thank you all so much. i want to start by saying that i was one of the outside raters on these two volumes and i've read the entirety of these two volumes. yes, i know, i get a door prize for this. i'm one of the very few people
who can make that claim. and i just want to tell you how worthwhile that actually is. frank and joe, 15, enormously tells people, but there's one thing that cannot talented at all which is actually explaining the worth of these volumes. they suck at that. [laughing] these two volumes are magnificent. peter put it earlier that these are likely to be the official history of the iraq war for the united states here i'm good with that. i'm so good with that. yes, it would be lovely if we had more from the stateside. yes, it would be fabulous if there were some official white house version. we are never going to get that. these versions, these volumes cover it. they cover it magnificently. let's start there. they are so beautifully written. it drives me nuts when, as joel pointed out, what we get in the
media says marana, , the conclusion of the armies history is that i ran one. that's like watching lawrence of arabia and saying the conclusion is belt drive motorcycles. [laughing] or reading lord of the rings and say never pick up a ring on the floor of a cave. first, you miss beauty of the stories themselves. these are painful, tragic, gutwrenching stories but that is such value in reading the stories in their fullness, in their richness. because they are beautifully told and because they speak to so much more than these simple points that people are pulling out of them. you cannot boil down the lessons of america's experience in iraq to a couple of bullet points. there is far too much of there. and what's remarkable, what's incredible about these two
volumes is how much you will learn from them. and it's easy to do the learning because it is so well written, so beautifully written. most of you, there's a washington audience, right? you are accustomed to thinking of u.s. government publications that read with all of the juice and fervor of the instructions of how to assemble your new typewriter, or lawnmower. these are wonderful works of nonfiction. they read so easily. it makes it so easy to take it all of the information, to get the insights and the wisdom that their authors are trying to import. but also to see for yourself insights and wisdom that you will pick out all of the information that is being revealed, because it is presented so beautifully. in addition, , one of the things that's so remarkable about the
work that this group of people dead was how they weaved together all of the different levels of analysis. yes, there are stories about tactical engagements, but there are also stories about the highest levels of politics, about what was going on here in washington, d.c., about the interaction between the folks in washington wrestling with domestic politics and strategy and global questions about america's role in the world, and the interaction with america's wider middle east strategy, with the specific province of iraq and how to translate that into winning this bloody war. it's just incredible how they manage to read all of those tales together. and gin section on the search to me as one of the best examples of that in the entire book. the surge is an unbelievably complex phenomena.
answer me one of the most painful things that i endlessly here is people talking about the surge in incredibly simplistic ways. one of the things that volume two does significantly, but again again it is just emblematic of what the group of people is done throughout these works, is explain the surge both in all its complexity but in ways that are simple enough for you to grasp without just getting completely lost in the weeds. as jim was talking about, , the surge is about additional troops in iraq. also about the anbar awakening. it's also about the battle of baghdad and a couple of phenomenal chapters in volume two about the battle of baghdad and why that was so important. it's about dealing with the shia and the shia militias. joel talked about the internal civil wars ever going up both the sunni and shia side, and these volumes capture all of
that, help you to understand it and understand easily, and understand the interaction among all of these different events, and why it was the sum total of those interactions that ultimately produced this remarkable transformation of what's going on in the war. and that complexity is there throughout both of these volumes from start to finish, but they handle it so definitely that you always know exactly what's going on -- definitely. you are not just been hit with endless details here, there, you're kind of bewildered by what this all supposed to mean. it's part of a wider narrative helps take you to it and understand this conflict in ways that i've not seen in any other works so far. it is remarkable in that sense. that complexity also speaks to another thing that really stood out to me. throughout the entirety of this work, but especially in volume
two. i will here quote from the patron saint of warfare carl von clausewitz who famously said, his many brilliant observations that the most important thing in war is understanding what kind of war you are fighting. and one of the things that really stands out from this total history but in particular in .2 is the struggle to understand what kind of a war we are fighting, because of that complexity. the iraq war is a lot of different conflicts rolled into one. what interested me was just in listening to different comets made this morning you put all of that. people were talking with terrorist attacks, and there was a terrorism component to this conflict, and people talking at insurgency, and it was an insurgent component to this conflict. and people were talking about civil civil war, and there was a civil war component of this conflict.
and what was required to ultimately turned things around in that 2007-2008 timeframe was to start to change a whole series of different american activities that got to all of those different problems. now, i will also say that i think, i wonder, put it that way, i wonder to what extent we paid the price for never fully grasping what this conflict looked like at the time. what i mean by that is, english is a lovely language and it expresses so many different things but there's so much ambiguity in it as well. i do want to have much of a conversation about semantics that it actually matters here. we talk about insurgency here we talk about guerrilla warfare. oftentimes most people think those are the same thing. they are not. they are completely different. in terms of civil war,
technically every insurgency is a civil war, but the truth is we talk about civil war we actually mean something very different. now, why is all the support? was only important because what you do to solve the problem of terrorism is different from what you do to solve the problem of an insurgency, to some extent. they are very similar. and it's totally different and what you do to solve the problem of the civil war. in fact, what you do to solve the problem civil war is the polar opposite of what you do to solve the problem of an insurgency. the worst thing, the dumbest thing you can possibly do is mistake one for the other and apply the wrong solution. that's exactly what the united states did in 2005. and i can remember for my own experience going in and arguing with the white house staff when they kept insisting this is an insurgency, we've got it, we will have elections, the elections will fix the insurgency. now, that would have been correct what we were actually facing was primarily an
insurgency. the problem was that by 2005 that insurgency had morphed into the civil war. and elections on the absolute worst possible thing that you can do in the civil war. which is why when we held two rants of elections in 2005, you guys are talk about earlier, the year of the purple fingers, those elections help propel iraq deeper into civil war. i'll tell you that i i was onef those people, an early proponent of the surge. i was talking about in 2004-2005 and i was talking about in and i was talking about in terms of counterinsurgency. at one level again it's fine. on the military side of things what you do to shut down the civil war, what you do to combat an insurgency are more or less the same. the problems, the real differences emerge on the political side of things. i can remember having a conversation a journalist was following this topic closely and he was talking about patrice come in and he said to me,,
you're telling me this is not an insurgency more, it's a civil war, isn't that going to be problematic when i said don't worry, the first 12 steps are the same. whether they call it counterinsurgency or shutting down the civil war doesn't matter. we will do the same thing, that's what matters and it's really going to. that of course was correct. militarily what you do is more or less the same. some small tweaks but it's not terribly important. but, of course, politically they are very, very different. the biggest difference is that with an insurgency what to legitimize and the power of the government. with civil war you want to get a power sharing agreement that limits the power of the government. and so are steps in the political realm in 2009 and ten and 11 which again the volume lays bare are exactly the things that help help drive iraq backo civil war, because we are empowering the worst elements of
the shia led by nuri al mulkey -- maliki who are trying to win when the government to do. i even wonder at some point you to go back and have some conversation with folks in the obama administration as to whether they thought they could walk away because they thought it was about counterinsurgency,, and now we had nice elections and with legitimize the government and, therefore, we didn't need to stay. which is something you can do in an insurgency once you have reached that point. in the civil war that force from the force we represented it was a peacekeeping force by that point in time needed to stay. so what other things, one of the great lessons of history is it takes about ten to 15 years for people to learn to trust one another again so that you can withdraw that peacekeeping force in half a a normal, stable in private. so that complexity also speaks to this problem that kind of comes through both of these volumes but especially in volume
two. i'm wrestling with this question of what kind of what is it that we were fighting, given how complicated a conflict it was. and, of course, add to that another theme that comes through these volumes over and over again is the limited willingness of our levitical leadership to provide it with the type and the resources needed to actually address the problem, which brings me to the last comment i wanted to make about particular volume two but also volume one to a certain extent. .. >> communities arecomponents of what became the surge, back in the 2014 timeframe and at that time , you
remember having in part a debate, i'm not going to characterize it morethan that but being part of a debate , small private debate among a bunch of very, very senior us government officials. i was making the case for what eventually became the surge so in early 2005 and one of the people present who had been a former, been a senior defense department official later would back the change, even more senior department official. that person said what you're talking about sounds reasonable, probably even right but the thing that you're missing is that our military will take 10 years to figure out how to do low intensity conflict. and we don't have that much time. i remember at the time thinking you know, that's a pretty tough counterargument and i don't know if it's
wrong or right. and one of the things that was stunning to me comes throughthese volumes , because of the way that they treat both the component parts and the bigger pictures and integrate them so beautifully is how incredible a transformation that was. how our military adopted endlessly and you heard it in all the conversations, all the presentations and discussions this morning. people talking about how our military was put in situations that they were never expected, that they were told not to expect. and all of a sudden there there and they are forced to deal with it and they are looking and adapting and trying and as ken pointed out, sometimes they got it totally wrong. but what was also important about her story about that kernel mistreating that sunni shia was that everybody else in the unit knew that was a mistake. they had learned the lesson
and what really comes through in volume 2 in particular is held during the course of this time, the military figures this stuff out and some of it is coordinated and some of it is just on-the-job training. so they figure it out and it is one of the most important stories is how the us military transforms itself to deal with these problems that it was told never toexpect , told not to plan for, told it would never deal with and i will simply end by saying that i know that one of the great debates that we're having in the us military right now and one of the great quandaries we're facing is whether to hang on to that extreme, whether it matters for the future, whether we will ever fight a war like this ever again.
i don't know. typicallywe fight exactly whatever war we least expect. that seems to be the constant in american military history, that whatever aware war aware expecting, we fight the polar opposite. i don't know what the next war will be, hopefully there will never be another war but i suspect there probably will be . our military did such a remarkable job in learning how to deal with the circumstances that it faced in iraq as described so beautifully by these two volumes. it would be a tragedy if we lose that. >> thank you sam. let's open it up for discussion forabout 10 minutes . if you have a question,please raise your hand in the back and we'll get you a microphone . >> one question about, at the same time you're talking about in the 2006 early 2007, the army and marine corps came out with a new counterinsurgency manual . in history, could you tell if that had any effect in the next two years or was it really as ken pollock talked about adaptation of the local
level? >> so when you say the marine corps manual, i'm familiar with the joint army and marine corps, is that what you're referring to? i think it had an influence in the sense that general petronius who was in charge of the army portion of that while i believe general mattis was in charge of the green portion of that, formulated a lot of this idea or took a personal interest in that manual. a lot of the discussions that provided the input for that manual took place in workshops and such that he, general petraeus sponsored so it was kind of throwing the pass and then his assignment is catching it in a rack, so
i think how i would summarize it is you have a lot of counterinsurgency, general casey himself would say he was fighting a counterinsurgency campaign so you have a lot of counterinsurgency techniques being taught in iraq, but it's not until 2007 where you have kind of eye uniform application of those techniques throughout the country and not in isolated units, so i think the idea, the ideas of counterinsurgency are known and implemented in some cases , i think after the publication of the manual, you have a more uniform application of it.
part of that is due to the manual, but part of it is also because you've got steve sponsored that manualin charge of implementation in iraq . >> just to echo what jim said, i saw that manual as being the kind of collective wisdom. and effort to take all of that improvisation i was talking about as well as older wisdom that was inherent in the military, codify it and say that's what we are going to do moving forward and especially at the tactic level, that was important in getting everybody on the same sheet of music. that said, i won't name a name here, pete mansoor, i think he's a phenomenal military officer, phenomenal historian and he wrote a nice book on the surge called the surge and at one point, i read the book and thought it was excellent but there's a place in the book in the first half, i can't remember where but he lays out this is
what we're going to do during the surge and he's really nice and clear and i took that and i took fm 324 and if you lookat, there's almost nothing in common . what's on those pages is what they knew was the right answer for iraq. politically, militarily, economically in every way. they understood after having spent three, four years and too much blood sweat and tears in iraq, they understood what needed to happen. this is true on thepolitical side as well. i remember having conversations with ryan crocker and charley reese and that whole team at the embassy . they couldn't describe the what the theory of what they were doing was. they just knew this is what needed to happen in iraq and they went about doing and it just so happens that what they did both on the military side with petraeus, all those
guys, but they did on the military side and what ryan and his team did was exactly what you weresupposed to do, what history teaches that you need to do to shut down a civil war which is why it worked . but it was less about the theory of this or that, it was much more about a group of people who had come to grips with this problem who had learned how to do it and were implementing it. >> let me just to put a ball on that, that you so i don't want to give the impression that fm 324 is a blueprint for what then happened to cause there were certainly was not complete or comprehensive in that sense because it's not going to provide an answer for everything you encounter in iraq and just as an example with the approach to the awakening, and how to deal with civil war's within a civil war. so and general the arrow used to refer to what he was
dealing with was claim plus, there was a counterinsurgency but some political dimensions to that exceeded what was in the manual. >> last question. >> might appear in the front. >>. >> my name is fred peterson, i served in operation iraqi freedom one and the second battle of falluja. the first was widely regarded as a classic case of making two mistakes, rushing in mystic one, pulling out quickly, mistake to and among other things we figured that pulling out after rushing in gave the insurgents typically the al qaeda linked guys a lot of streak read in the sony block and gave them a platform to further their ambitions of storing up sectarian tension and civil war and the grander scheme of
things, how much you think that mistake played into the situation that weended up having to deal with ? >> i'm going to treat that in thewider sense . you know, again, something that's really i was having little ptsd flashback from the first panel because we were talking about how the united states handled the invasion and the failure to deal with reconstruction really taken on. because again, a lot of the decisions that were made at the time and again, it's one of these, the book is so beautifully evenhanded as well. it's hard not to read it and say that was amistake . but the authors all went to such trouble to try to portray the decisions in their proper context to give people their proper due. i think it's a wonderfully
important work and all the decisions that were made at the time, there's a logic to that. a sea in many cases to be smart or common sense. and in many cases, it's people who are doing things that they had never done before and have no context for doing before. they don't even have the knowledge for what to do about it so they're doing the thing thatthey think makes the most sense . and we are listening toiraqis . and what was striking to me at the time was striking to me sense wasbefore we ever invaded , if you spoke to the community of people who had done post-conflict reconstruction or all around the world and all of these different places, one of the most important things that they said was you do not allow the iraqis, you do not allow the indigenous population to run things for at least eight years.
and one of the main reasons it goes to a point was making on the first panel which is not going to know what the right answer is you're not going to know who the good people are and who the bad people are. you're not going to know if you turn over security to this group or that group whether they're going to do the right thing for the wrong thing so the most important thing that you do is you all on to sovereignty and security until you're absolutely certain until you've built new institutions of security and new political institutions to run them and have worked out the relationships between them and they said that takes at least eight years. and to me, the issue of falluja like so many of these was the us being caught in between. we did get the fact that we didn't really know who these people were and we had heard bad things but we heard bad things about all of them. because everybody was saying bad things about everybody else.
the number of people who were uniformly described as good, honest, wonderful, hard-working nationalist , i probably count on one hand. every iraqi has some enemy, some rival. there's someone out there who's going to say that things about them so often times we would do stuff like that thinking we need to go in and take fallujah and people would say that the worst thing you can do, you're delegitimizing the people you want to empower so let's step out and it was that absence of understanding, that absence of planning but that absence of a willingness to say this is truly on our shoulders. and we're going to have to make this work. to me, the battle of fallujah was one among many examples of. >> let me just conclude by thanking the folks who wrote this and send three years working on it. how many, joel?
he and a half years. as a national security professional and a government historian, to see how hard it was for them to do this and just to logistically make it happen. to get through a very large and complicated bureaucracy and to tell the story as well as it can be described as telling. i think really, they performed an admirable public service and thank you all for whatever you did. >>.
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