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The United States planned poorly for the post-invasion administration of Iraq, contributing to the rise of a broad insurgency and the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The blame can be cast widely. An official Army history of the Iraq conflict found that “the Army, as the service primarily responsible for ground operations, should have insisted on better . . . planning and preparations. . . .” A RAND Corporation study concluded that the State Department’s “main postwar planning effort . . . raised many of the right questions. . . . Yet the Department of Defense largely ignored this project.” Rand also found that much of the confusion between the State and Defense departments stemmed from poor direction from the National Security Council, which failed to mediate disputes between the departments. Others blame the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, which issued two orders that disbanded the Iraqi military and gutted the Iraqi government by banning members of the Ba’ath Party. Critics say those decisions, which took many U.S. civilian and military leaders by surprise, contributed to the rise in violence. Before Bremer replaced him as director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq, Lieutenant General Jay Garner drafted a postwar plan for Iraq, which he introduced with, “History will judge the war against Iraq not by the brilliance of its military execution, but by the effectiveness of the post-hostilities activities.”

More effective counterinsurgency strategy and a U.S. troop “surge” have helped stabilize Iraq and reduce the level of violence and lawlessness, but Iraq’s future remains unclear. After years of disappointing reconstruction results — endemic power shortages and billions of dollars wasted on incomplete and shoddy projects — some reconstruction gains have been made, and a measure of political progress has occurred as well. Government administration is now largely in the hands of the Iraqis. There are now clearer lines of authority between the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the U.S. military leadership in the country than existed during the period when the Coalition Provisional Authority ruled. The DOD press office did not respond to a request for comment, but then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told Congress in 2003 that although “it seems to have become fashionable for some to say that there were no plans for post-war Iraq,” a military plan “is not like a blueprint and detailed schedule for the building of a skyscraper.”

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