INSIDE THE COMMAND
Second of two articles:
Centcom Behind Closed-Doors
Michael R. Gordon is the chief military correspondent for The New York Times, and Bernard E. Trainor, a retired Marine lieutenant general, is a former military correspondent for the newspaper. This article is adapted from their book, 'Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq,' which will be released Tuesday by Pantheon Books.
From the first days of the invasion in March 2003, American forces had tangled with fanatical Saddam Fedayeen paramilitary fighters. Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, who was leading the Army's V Corps toward Baghdad, had told two reporters that his soldiers needed to delay their advance on the Iraqi capital to suppress the Fedayeen threat in the rear.
Soon after, General Franks phoned Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, the commander of allied land forces, to warn that he might relieve General Wallace.
The firing was averted after General McKiernan flew to meet General Franks. But the episode revealed the deep disagreements within the United States high command about the Iraqi military threat and what would be required to defeat it.
The dispute, related by military officers in interviews, had lasting consequences. The unexpected tenacity of the Fedayeen in the battles for Nasiriya, Samawa, Najaf and other towns on the road to Baghdad was an early indication that the adversary was not merely Saddam Hussein's vaunted Republican Guard.
A United States Marines intelligence officer warned after the bloody battle at Nasiriya, the first major fight of the war, that the Fedayeen would continue to mount attacks after the fall of Baghdad since many of the enemy fighters were being bypassed in the race to the capital.
¶In an extraordinary improvisation, Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile leader who was a Pentagon favorite, was flown to southern Iraq with hundreds of his fighters as General Franks's command sought to put an "Iraqi face" on the invasion; the plan was set in motion without the knowledge of top administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence.
¶Instead of sending additional troops to impose order after the fall of Baghdad, Mr. Rumsfeld and General Franks canceled the deployment of the First Cavalry Division;
General McKiernan was unhappy with the decision, which was made at a time when ground forces were needed to deal with the chaos in Iraq.
This account of decision-making inside the American command is based on interviews with dozens of military officers and government officials over the last two years. Some asked to remain unidentified because they were speaking about delicate internal deliberations that they were not authorized to discuss publicly.
Early Resistance Wasn't Foreseen"