16th June 20:47
Postwar Window Closing in Iraq, Study Says
By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2003; Page A09
A team of outside experts dispatched by the Pentagon to assess security and
reconstruction operations in Iraq reported yesterday that the window of
opportunity for achieving postwar success is closing and requires immediate and
dramatic action by U.S. military and civilian personnel.
The team concluded that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in charge
of reconstruction efforts is isolated and underfunded and recommended that U.S.
officials move immediately to internationalize the daunting task of rebuilding
Iraq, particularly in light of "rising anti-Americanism in parts of the
Amid escalating guerrilla attacks against U.S. forces and mounting criticism of
the Bush administration by Democrats for poor postwar planning in Iraq, the
report represents a comprehensive, independent assessment of conditions there,
both in terms of security and reconstruction.
"The 'hearts and minds' of key segments of the Sunni and Shi'a communities are
in play and can be won, but only if the Coalition Provisional Authority and new
Iraqi authorities deliver in short order," the experts said in 10-page report to
Pentagon officials, which they released at a news conference.
The report noted "significant progress" but said "the next 12 months will be
The team, organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a
Washington think tank, traveled to Iraq at Pentagon expense between June 27 and
July 7. It was led by John Hamre, who served as deputy defense secretary in the
Clinton administration and is now CSIS president.
Bryan G. Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said defense officials "agree with the
assessment that there has been enormous progress in Iraq since the removal of
[Saddam Hussein's] regime and that significant challenges lie ahead."
"We look forward to working through the report in a systematic fashion to
determine how we might put into practice the elements and findings, as
appropriate," Whitman said.
While measured in tone and focused on 32 separate recommendations for rapidly
improving conditions in Iraq, the report represents, in many respects, a
critical assessment of the Bush administration's postwar plan.
It implicitly faults the administration for failing to adequately involve the
international community and the United Nations in reconstruction activities.
"The scope of the challenges, the financial requirements, and rising
anti-Americanism in parts of Iraq argue for a new coalition that includes
countries and organizations beyond the original war fighting coalition," the
The report also notes that the administration, by vesting virtually all
reconstruction authority in the Pentagon, chose a new model for postwar
management that cut out many agencies more experienced in the field and relied
on the Defense Department's "relatively untested capacities."
The study does not weigh in on the much-debated question of whether the Pentagon
lacked enough forces on the ground when the war ended to secure Iraq's cities,
prevent looting and forcefully demonstrate that U.S. forces were in control.
But the experts singled out security as Iraq's primary problem and said
"volatile" conditions must be dealt with over the next three months to prevent
the window of opportunity for success from closing.
The U.S. military, despite the presence of 148,000 troops in Iraq, the report
says, is not visible enough at the street level, particularly in Baghdad, and
must reassess its force composition and tactics in response to a "steady
deterioration in the security situation."
Frederick Barton, a team member and CSIS official, said that while there
probably were not enough troops on the ground when the war ended in April,
increasing the U.S. military force in the country now would be problematic,
given growing resentment of its presence.
Thousands of forces guarding military bases and Iraqi installations, he said,
should be redeployed to increase their visibility and augmented by private
security contractors and Iraqi police. But the job of rooting out remnants of
Saddam Hussein's Baath party now waging a guerrilla war, he said, must remain
primarily with U.S. forces.
Barton said he now believes the Iraqi insurgency is more sophisticated than the
military initially appreciated. "We came to the conclusion while we were there
that thousands of [Baathist fighters] just don't go missing as an accident --
that it probably was a coordinated effort," Barton said. "It's really not hard
to travel around the country, and it's not hard to [communicate by] word of
Another team member, Bathsheba Crocker, a former State Department attorney, said
officials she met with in the southern city of Basra now believe the looting
there was orchestrated by Hussein's regime. "This wasn't just the result of
overexcitement or venting or whatever it was we thought it was at the
beginning," she said. "The devastation is unbelievable."
Beyond security, the report says, the Coalition Provisional Authority, the
agency in charge of reconstruction headed by L. Paul Bremer, must improve
communications with the Iraqi people and decentralize its structure by opening
18 regional offices.
The authority will soon be in desperate need of funds and must be freed of
bureaucratic restrictions so that it can rapidly commit money for essential
improvements, the report says, particularly those related to the country's water
and power systems.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company