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Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services on Capitol Hill, April 3, 2014.

Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services on Capitol Hill, April 3, 2014. (Steve Cortez/U.S. Army)

A candid history of how the Army prosecuted the Iraq War intended to be published while its lessons were still relevant was completed more than two years ago, but has yet to be released, with former officials saying it became mired in reviews and infighting amid concerns it might make the Army look bad.

Commissioned in 2013 by former chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno, “The United States Army in the Iraq War” is an unclassified history of more than 1,300 pages charting U.S. involvement in the conflict, which cost more than 4,400 American lives between 2003 and 2011. But few outsiders had heard of the report until last week, when The Wall Street Journal published an account of the secret history.

“We worked tirelessly for three years to complete a scholarly product that captured the war’s lessons in a readable historical narrative,” Frank Sobchak, a retired colonel who was the study team’s final director, told the newspaper. “That the Army was paralyzed with apprehension for the past two years over publishing it leaves me disappointed with the institution to which I dedicated my adult life.”

On Thursday, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., urged Army leaders to release the history.

“We believe the report will contribute immensely to ensuring that we learn from past mistakes and that we build a future Army that is cognizant of its history and prepared for conflict,” they said in a letter to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Army Secretary Mark Esper.

“Our military, Congress and the American people deserve nothing less than total transparency on the lessons learned that the Army has identified.”

When the Journal last week asked Milley about the Army’s handling of the study, he replied he hoped to publish it by the end of the year.

The invasion of Iraq in March and April 2003 led by the U.S., British and coalition troops defeated Saddam Hussein’s army and paramilitary forces, while suffering less than 200 combat deaths. But soon after those hostilities ended, a sectarian civil war broke out, which evolved into full-scale guerrilla warfare against the occupying troops. In 2007, the Pentagon carried out a surge of more than 20,000 U.S. troops that helped stabilize the situation and eventually led to the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011.

The study praised the 2007 troop surge. It also concluded, according to the Journal, that the war effort never had enough troops; failed to develop a strategy to deter Iranian and Syrian support to insurgents; under-resourced the effort to train and equip Iraqi forces; never developed effective detainee procedures; and errantly consolidated U.S. forces on large bases, causing a security vacuum around Baghdad.

montgomery.nancy@stripes.com Twitter:@montgomerynance

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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