Support our mission

WASHINGTON — U.S. war planners failed to prepare for the insurgency that arose after major combat operations in Iraq because they were “seduced by Iraqi exiles” who predicted a joyous reception for U.S. troops, one of the Army’s senior architects of the campaign said Thursday.

In testimony Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. Jack Keane, who retired last fall after a final posting as acting Army chief of staff, offered an unusually frank account of mistakes made in planning for the Iraq war.

“When I look back on it myself, having participated and contributed to [the war planning], one of the things that happened to us … is many of us got seduced by the Iraqi exiles in terms of what the outcome would be” after the war, Keane said.

“‘We’re all going to be treated as liberators,’” interjected Rep. Ike Skelton, the committee’s ranking minority member.

“That’s correct,” Keane replied. “So therefore the intellectual capital to prepare ourselves properly for an insurgency was not there.”

Keane said that despite continued violence against U.S. troops, U.S. military leaders “did not recognize that we were dealing with an insurgency [in Iraq] until midsummer” 2003.

This recognition came only after “lawlessness and looting in May, targeted violence against us in June that doubled in July, doubled in August, increased again in September and steady-stated thereafter,” the retired general said.

Keane did not criticize operations in war on Wednesday. But he was frank in his assessment of what he said was lack of planning for the war’s aftermath.

“There were very few people who actually envisioned, honestly, before the war what we are dealing with now after the regime went down,” Keane said.

“We did not see [the insurgency] coming, and we were not properly prepared to deal with it.”

Keane offered insight into what military planners were thinking as they prepared for the Iraq campaign.

“The conventional wisdom was that we would have a stability operation that would be more akin to what we were doing in Kosovo, but on a larger scale,” Keane said. “And we would be very much involved in political and physical reconstruction, and maybe some law and order, in the absence of a competent police.”

Keane said that the widespread looting and lawlessness that occurred immediately after the fall of Baghdad “went on for a shorter period of time than people advertised,” but that “it did get away from us for about a week” — in part because the Rules of Engagement that U.S. troops were operating under “did not change quickly enough” for the new situation.

But the “much more serious problem,” Keane said, “was being organized improperly to deal with an insurgency.”

Keane credited Army commanders on the ground last year as being “quality leaders” who proved to be “enormously flexible and adaptable” in reorganizing and equipping themselves to deal with the unexpected revolt.

“But we could have done far better for them if we had properly prepared for the reality,” Keane said.

Skelton said that he did “not want to belabor the point, but there were a lot of young folks who paid the price for that lack of foresight.”

“Yes, sir,” Keane replied.

Keane replaced Gen. Eric Shinseki as acting Army chief of staff after Shinseki retired in June 2003.

Shinseki is believed to have been forced out by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the Army leader told Congress that pacifying Iraq after the war would require “hundreds of thousands” of troops, rather than the smaller force Rumsfeld and other civilian Pentagon officials advocated.

Rumsfeld asked Keane to take the top job permanently, but the four-star declined for “family reasons,” according to Pentagon officials at the time. Keane retired in the fall. He was succeeded as Army chief of staff by Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who returned from retirement to take the job.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up