The report's toughest criticism is leveled at the
mishandling and under-manning by military commanders and political officials of
key "transition" moments in the two wars - such as the end of major combat
operations in 2003, the renewal of Iraqi self-governance in 2004-2005, and
NATO's takeover in 2006 of military operations in Afghanistan.
"Failure to adequately plan and resource strategic and
operational transitions endangered accomplishment of the overall mission" in
the first half of the decade, the account says, although the military did
better later. "Non-combat skills, to include civil affairs, had not been
adequately rehearsed." In Afghanistan, "the planning assumed that the chief
duty" of international troops after 2006 would be reconstruction and
humanitarian aid - an assumption that turned out to be grotesquely wrong.
The reason, the report says, was that military planning was
based on "U.S. expectations instead of those consistent with the host nation
and mission," a nice way of describing wishful thinking rather than realism.
"For example," the report notes, " the planned end-state for Afghanistan was
envisioned to be a strong central government despite no record of such a
government in its history and lack of broad popular support for that system of
Without using his name, the report says that Lt. Gen.
Ricardo Sanchez, who directed the V Corps that assumed control in Iraq after
major combat ceased, was deployed without training in reconstruction and
stabilization. "His staff was not manned, equipped, nor resourced to accept
these responsibilities," the chronicle explains.
U.S. military forces were also not equipped "to combat
adaptive insurgencies" in both countries, the report says. While Special Forces
units had some of the proper skills, they poorly coordinated their operations
with regular forces. They did not share routinely share intelligence, at least
at the outset, and regular troops in Afghanistan complained until 2008 that the
Special Forces' actions often caused social disruptions that others had to
The civilian side of the effort, which Bremer ran, "often lacked
the necessary expertise and resources," operated independently, and lacked an
overarching strategy - a problem the report says was not really fixed until
The report credits U.S. forces with eventually overcoming
"the challenge of inadequate planning and preparation...by widespread and
successful adaptation at all levels" -- partly at the urging of commanders such
as Gen. David Petraeus. But the assessment notes that efforts to rush
newly-developed equipment to the wars impeded proper training, and caused late
discovery of vulnerabilities and reliability or maintenance problems.
The report summarizes all of these problems in eleven
"overarching lessons" to be drawn from the decade of war. But it warns that
even though the U.S. military has developed what the report calls "an
increasingly expeditionary mindset," a better coordination of U.S. military and
civilian efforts has yet to be mandated by "U.S. law or policy."
This article was published in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity.