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Two soldiers move methodically down a street during a night patrol of Bayji, Iraq, on Aug. 4, 2004. (DoD photo by Pfc. Elizabeth Erste, U.S. Army.)

State Department experts warned CENTCOM
before Iraq war about lack of plans for
post-war Iraq security

Planning for post-Saddam regime change began
as early as October 2001

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 163

Posted - August 17, 2005

For more information: Malcolm Byrne - 202/994-7000

The Saddam Hussein Sourcebooks
More documents on the U.S.-Iraq relationship

Washington, D.C., August 17, 2005: Newly declassified State Department documents show that government experts warned the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in early 2003 about "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance," well before Operation Iraqi Freedom began.

In a February 7, 2003, memo to Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, three senior Department officials noted CENTCOM's "focus on its primary military objectives and its reluctance to take on 'policing' roles," but warned that "a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally." The memo adds "We have raised these issues with top CENTCOM officials."

By contrast, a December 2003 report to Congress, also released by the State Department, offers a relatively rosy picture of the security situation, saying U.S. forces are "increasingly successful in preventing planned hostile attacks; and in capturing former regime loyalists, would-be terrorists and planners; and seizing weapons caches." The document acknowledges that "Challenges remain."

Since then, 1,393 U.S. military fatalities have been recorded in Iraq, including two on the day the report went to Congress.

The new documents, released this month to the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, also provide more evidence on when the Bush administration began planning for regime change in Iraq -- as early as October 2001.

The declassified records relate mainly to the so-called "Future of Iraq Project," an effort, initially run by the State Department then by the Pentagon, to plan for the transition to a new regime after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. They provide detail on each of the working groups and give the starting date for planning as October 2001.

Entire sections of a Powerpoint presentation the State Department prepared on November 1, 2002 -- including those covering "What We Have Learned So Far" and "Implications for the Real Future of Iraq" -- have been censored as still-classified information.


Documents
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Document 1: State Department cable, Future of Iraq Expert Working Groups, July 8, 2002

State Department officials held planning meetings with "free Iraqis"-described as "Iraqis who live outside Iraq or in northern Iraq"-as early as April 2002, according to this document. Directed to embassy posts in several allied countries, the State Department cable announces the establishment of 15 "Future of Iraq Project" working groups to prepare for the transition to a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, adding that priority subjects had been identified at a "planning meeting with Iraqis on April 9-10."


Document 2: State Department briefing, Future of Iraq Project, November 1, 2002

State Department planning for the transition in Iraq began in October 2001, according to a "Project History" included in this set of briefing slides (p. 6).


Document 3
: State Department Information Memorandum for Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Iraq Contingency Planning, February 7, 2003

One month before the beginning of U.S. military operations in Iraq, three State Department bureau chiefs warn of "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance" in a memorandum prepared for Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky (Democracy and Global Affairs). Recognizing that the military is reluctant "to take on 'policing' roles," the bureau heads predict that "a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally."


Document 4
: State Department Action Memorandum for Secretary of State Colin Powell, Response to Secretary Rumsfeld, April 10, 2003

William Burns, the head of the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs bureau, recommends that Secretary Powell approve a (still classified) response to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's "suggested messages and demarches to capitals related to Iraq." Burns notes that, "These are all actions that we already have taken or have planned." Powell's approval (stamped "CLP") is indicated in this copy of the memo.


Document 5: State Department, Report to Congress Submitted consistent with PL 107-243: "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002", December 15, 2003

Nine months into the war, this State Department report to Congress says that U.S.-led military forces "continue to make progress in stabilizing Iraq's overall security situation" and have been "increasingly successful in preventing planned hostile attacks; and in capturing former regime loyalists, would-be terrorists and planners; and seizing weapons caches." Recent attacks against coalition forces "have been more sophisticated," however, "indicating that hostile foreign infiltrators are cooperating with former regime loyalists." Curiously, the report finds that successful insurgent attacks "reveal more information about planners, methods and planning sites of hostile elements, thus assisting in the prevention of attacks." On the day this report was submitted to Congress, two American soldiers died in Iraq, and an additional 1,391 have died since.

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