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.
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe
Acrobat Reader to view.
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
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."
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.
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.