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Pre-war Planning for Post-war Iraq


Planning in the U.S. Government for post-war Iraq was an interagency process involving officials from the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, Treasury, Energy, and Commerce; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Central Intelligence Agency, as well as from the staffs of the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget.

DoD mid and senior-level planners and officials engaged in multiple planning initiatives for post-war contingencies. DoD staff in the theater and in Washington evaluated a wide-range of possible outcomes, led efforts to merge and synchronize planning from various government agencies, and shaped planning for the major combat phase of the operation to allow for the best possible post-war conditions. 

Key to DoD planning for this operation was the assumption that liberating Iraq from 35 years of tyrannical rule and severe social and economic underdevelopment would be a challenging prospect. 



Beginning in July 2002, an assortment of working groups were formed to conduct and coordinate post-war planning.

o       Interagency Iraq Political-Military Cell (NSC, State Dept., DoD, CIA, Office of the Vice President): A staff-action-officer level group that focused on an integrated strategic effort to set the conditions for Iraq’s transition to stability and sovereignty.

o       Interagency Executive Steering Group (NSC, State, DoD, CIA, OVP):  An NSC-chaired Deputy Under Secretary level meeting that addressed strategic planning and policy recommendations for NSC Deputies’ Committee meetings.

o       Interagency Humanitarian/Reconstruction Group (NSC, State, DoD, CIA, OVP, Treasury, DoJ, USAID): Prepared plans for immediate relief operations and longer term reconstruction in Iraq.

o       Interagency Energy Infrastructure Working Group (State, DoD, CIA, DoE): Prepared plans to repair and operate the Iraqi oil industry in order to return output to pre-war levels.

o       Interagency Coalition Working Group (DoD, State): A forum for coordination of military requirements, diplomatic strategy, and strategic support to build and maintain the coalition support (pre-war, war, and post-war).

o       Office of Global Communications (State, DoD, USAID, DoJ, Treasury, the U.S. military, and coalition partners): Coordinated public affairs efforts at the strategic level, working to counter Saddam Hussein’s disinformation campaigns.




Additional organizations were created to continue in-depth planning, interagency coordination, and implementation. For example, the Joint Staff directed CENTCOM to create Joint Task Force 4 (JTF-4) in order to conduct detailed interagency planning for Phase IV stabilization operations.

The most significant outcome was a CENTCOM produced 300-page Phase IV Operations Order. It was focused on seven lines of operation: unity of effort, security, rule of law, civil administration, governance, humanitarian assistance, and resettlement.


A wide assortment of other institutions prepared studies or assisted with planning sessions considering possible post-war challenges. Included among those is the Future of Iraq (FOI) project and the National Defense University (NDU) exercise.

FOI offered many valuable insights and contributions to various aspects of post-war planning, as did the NDU event in February 2003. Over 150 U.S. Government representatives (including members from ORHA) participated in this interagency rehearsal and planning exercise at NDU. Lessons learned from the exercise were taken back to the interagency working groups for incorporation into the processes.

Civilian officials on these interagency teams worked on post-war plans in the following ten sectors: health, education, water and sanitation, electricity, shelter, transportation, governance and rule of law, agriculture and rural development, telecommunications, economic and financial policy.



The Office of Near East and South Asia (NESA) Affairs was one of four regional offices (working under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs) whose daily mission was formulating international security and political-military policy. (The other three regional offices being Africa, Asia and Pacific, and Western Hemisphere)


In September 2002, due to increased workload related to the Global War on Terrorism and the possibility of an Iraq contingency, the Deputy Secretary of Defense approved the expansion of the Northern Gulf Directorate within NESA.

This office was responsible for exploring policy concerns in planning issues ranging from deployment, coalition building, potential war crimes investigations, Iraqi opposition and training issues, oil issues, postwar Iraqi media and many others. Their office was increased from 4 people to approximately 16 to handle the increased workload.

In October 2002, the Directorate of Special Plans was formally established as an expansion of the NESA’s Northern Gulf Directorate to concentrate on policy issues with respect to Iran, Iraq and the Global War on Terrorism.


It was titled the “Directorate of Special Plans” because, at that time, the creation of an “Iraq Planning” group (or similarly named group) in the Pentagon conducting specialized planning for a potential Iraq contingency could have undercut ongoing diplomatic efforts in the UN and elsewhere.

The Directorate of Special Plans was a policy planning group, nothing more. As such, it was a consumer, rather than producer of intelligence products. 


It developed defense policy options for senior decision makers, coordinated those options within DoD and across the interagency, monitored the implementation of defense policy and recommended course corrections to defense policy.

It did not conduct intelligence collection, create intelligence products, conduct operational war planning, or implement policy.

In  2003, when planning for Iraq was no longer a sensitive issue, the office’s name reverted to Near East, South Asia/Northern Gulf (NESA/NG) to reflect its regional focus.



In January 2003, the Department of Defense created the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA): an expeditionary interagency office with officials from all departments and agencies in charge of detailed planning and implementation.

Jay Garner created ORHA from scratch, staffed from over a dozen offices of the U.S. government, our coalition partners and from the private sector. ORHA managed the distribution of humanitarian assistance and began the process of building the new Iraq both physically and politically.



When General Franks, as Commander of the Coalition Forces, declared Iraq’s liberation, he announced the creation of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The CPA served, in effect, as the acting government pending the Iraqi people’s creation of a new government. General Franks was the initial head of the CPA.

The CPA reported directly to the President through DoD. The rationale for reporting directly through DoD was based on lessons learned from Bosnia and a desire to eliminate a dual reporting and command structure.

In Bosnia, the U.N. was responsible for civil reconstruction, the judiciary and other ministries. The peacekeeping force however, operated under a different chain of command. Many contend the lack of coordination between the military and civilian entities has led to the prolonged involvement of all parties. We did not want to repeat past mistakes.

The plan always was when major combat operations were completed, a senior civilian administrator would be appointed in Iraq and ORHA would report to that administrator.

The President named Ambassador L. Paul Bremer as his Envoy to Iraq, placing him in charge of all civilian U.S. personnel in Iraq, including ORHA.

It is untrue that Mr. Bremer’s appointment reflected dissatisfaction with the work of Jay Garner. Mr. Garner’s job leading ORHA was complex, the conditions difficult, and the time short. His achievements however, were substantial. He is deserving of great praise for his efforts.



While not involved in post-war planning, the CTEG is often confused with the Directorate of Special Plans.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, our nation found itself, for the first time in our history, engaged in a war against a non-linear foe with no identifiable boundaries and a global organization. The Department of Defense identified a need to analyze conflict with a terrorist network, versus a traditional nation-state.  In October of 2001, a two-person team was set up to study this issue.

The mission of the CTEG was to review the vast amount of existing intelligence on terrorist networks, think through how various terrorist organizations relate to each other and how they relate to different groups that support them; in particular, state sponsors. It did this on a global scale, not focusing on any particular nation or region.

Its main conclusion was that groups and states were willing to cooperate across philosophical, ideological lines in order to achieve their goals. During this study,  some interesting observations about linkages between Iraq and al-Qaida were discovered.  These observations were shared with the CIA and other groups among the intelligence community in August, 2002.


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