Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom were the first major wars of the 21st century. They will not be the last. They have significantly impacted how our government and military think about prosecuting wars. They will have a generational impact on the U.S. military, as its future leaders, particularly those in the ground forces, will for decades be men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.* I believe it is imperative that leaders at all levels, both military and civilian, share their experiences to ensure that we, as a military and as a country, gain appropriate insights for the future.
As the Army chief of staff, I encouraged leaders at the war colleges, staff colleges, and advanced courses to write about what they did in Iraq and Afghanistan so that others could be better prepared when they faced similar challenges. This book is my effort to follow my own advice. I believe that we have not seen the last of the challenges and demands that I faced during my 32 months of combined command in Iraq, and I offer these insights so that future leaders can be better prepared.
During my command tenure, the Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF-I) mission transitioned from one of occupation to one of partnership with three Iraqi governments. We used this period to lay the foundation for and begin the transition to a self-reliant Iraqi government, our mandate from the United Nations (UN). This book primarily addresses the events, decisions, and actions of MNF-I as I perceived them at the time. I have occasionally offered retrospective insights that come from experience and hindsight, but I felt it is more important to focus on what I thought and what I did then to provide the best insight into the challenges I faced and how I dealt with them. It reflects my insights as a commander in one theater of a broader war.
In preparing this book, I relied on the historical records that I kept from Iraq—personal notes, briefings, plans, assessments, meeting notes—that, while decidedly incomplete, greatly sharpened my personal recollections and offered insights into how we viewed the situation over time and what we conveyed to our political leaders. They are available for research at the National Defense University.
As in any major endeavor, personalities mattered. Throughout my entire command tenure, I interacted with an extremely professional group of civilian and military leaders. My Commander in Chief was President George W. Bush, who was served by two Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, and two National Security Advisors, Dr. Rice and Stephen Hadley, whom I interacted with regularly. Strategic oversight came from two Secretaries of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld for 30 months, and Robert Gates for my final 2 months. I worked closely with two Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, USAF, for 17 months and General Peter Pace, USMC, for 15 months. My immediate military commander for my entire tenure was Commander of U.S. Central Command General John Abizaid, USA. I was privileged to work side-by-side with two U.S. Ambassadors, John Negroponte and Zalmay Khalilzad, for 8 months and 22 months, respectively, and one interim Ambassador, Jim Jeffrey, who later returned as our Ambassador to Iraq. I worked with the leaders of three different Iraqi governments, led by Prime Ministers Ayad Allawi, Ibrahim al-Jafari, and Nuri al-Maliki. I had the benefit of working with very talented military subordinates: four Multi-National Corps–Iraq (MNC-I) commanders—then–Lieutenant Generals Thomas Metz, John Vines, Peter Chiarelli, and Raymond Odierno—and two Multi-National Security Transition Command–Iraq (MNSTC-I) commanders, then–Lieutenant Generals David Petraeus and Martin Dempsey. I also worked closely with Lieutenant General Stan McChrystal, who led our efforts against al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Over 65 years ago in his initial dispatch following Operation Torch, General Dwight Eisenhower wrote that “the accomplishments of this campaign are sufficiently evident to make comment unnecessary. Our mistakes, some of which were serious, may be less apparent at this moment, and, in the interest of future operations, they should be subject to dispassionate analysis.”
Although the accomplishments of this campaign may not currently be seen with sufficient clarity to make comment unnecessary, I submit this book in the same spirit. The challenges that I faced during my command hold valuable lessons for future military and civilian leaders as we enter our second decade of war. It is my hope that this book will provide insights that allow future leaders to better prepare themselves for the challenges they will surely face in this era of persistent conflict.
I purposely focused this book on my actions and the actions of my headquarters and, as a result, have only touched briefly on the significant stories of the advances that were made during this time in training indigenous security forces, targeting high-value individuals, detainee operations, reconstruction, and dealing with improvised explosive devices. The men and women of the MNF-I, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of State who served in Iraq during this time rewrote the books in these and other areas and postured us for success in Iraq and in future conflicts.
Operation Iraqi Freedom is part of a larger story—that of the United States as a nation adapting to the security challenges thrust on us by the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, and that of a military transforming in the midst of war. As this book illustrates, the forces involved, both military and civilian, adapted under fire and in the face of the uncertainty and complexity of Iraq to accomplish our national objectives and provide 27 million Iraqis the opportunity for a better life. It is a historic accomplishment, and one of which all Americans can be justifiably proud.
—George W. Casey, Jr.
General, U.S. Army, Retired