All units took on the task of guarding logistics convoys, and notwithstanding the significant fight in which they found themselves in the northern part of the Sunni triangle, we carved a reserve out of the 1st Infantry Division. We increased this reserve by taking a Stryker Battalion from the Multi-National Brigade-North, which added risk to an economy of force operation – a risk that I felt had to be taken.
As for Fallujah, American, Iraqi and international media were strongly criticizing Marine tactics there, while supplies of ammunition, fuel, and water were running low. As a result of our inability to disrupt the enemy’s effective use of information operations, the political support for continued operations was withdrawn, and the Marines were ordered to withdraw from Fallujah. The solution was to form an Iraqi unit, the “Fallujah Brigade,” which would be tasked to control the city and bring the Blackwater contractors’ murderers to justice. Although we all wanted the “Fallujah Brigade” experiment to be successful, very few coalition leaders were optimistic.
As we were transferring authority of Baghdad from the 1st Armor Division to the 1st Cavalry Division, young Soldiers were being killed during their last and first weeks in country. But we decided to keep the 1st Armor Division an extra ninety days to give the Coalition the combat power to put out the up-rising hot spots, especially in the central south part of Iraq. Working closely with leaders like Jim Conway, Jim Mattis, Marty Dempsey, Pete Chiarelli, John Batiste, and Carter Ham, the following critical lessons learned were seared into my professional heart during the spring of 2004:
- Information operations are critical to victory on today’s battlefield; you must consider the IO effect of every lethal and non-lethal decision
- Commanders must think through the second and third order effects of their actions or in actions and never forget that failure to make a decision is a decision
- Our doctrine demands a reserve, so follow the doctrine.
- Never take your eye off logistics
- When fighting with a host nation in a counter insurgency, you must start together, stay together and finish together
- Our young leaders in brigades, regiments and battalions know how to fight “jointly” and can do so with superior effectiveness on today’s battlefield. Senior leaders must maneuver and support them effectively
I promised myself that I would take these lessons and ensure that I had learned from them. My gut told me that I would need them before my tour in Iraq was complete.
Behind the chaos of the April uprising, the plans for creating the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) and its subordinate ground component command, the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I), were taking shape. By June, MNC-I was fully operational and MNF-I was in its initial operation capacity. CJTF-7 and CPA were inactivated, Iraq was a sovereign government, and the Fallujah Brigade experiment had indeed proven to be a terrible failure: its leaders were in full cooperation with our enemies. The experiment to let Iraqi forces control a city had failed, and our enemies had a safe haven from which to operate.
The density of our enemies in Fallujah gave our special operations forces a “target-rich environment”. As these special operations attacks continued over the summer of 2004, and as I realized that the international media covered them less and less, I coined the non-doctrinal term “IO Threshold.” Simply put, the IO Threshold is the boundary below which the media is not interested and above which they are. This concept would play an important part of the second battle of Fallujah.
One evening while in an informal meeting with General Casey and his staff, I asked in how many Iraqi cities do we have to have successful elections for the total elections to be successful? I answered my question “Baghdad, Basra, Mosel” and then paused. My good friend General Casey picked up the idea and challenged his staff to develop an answer. I knew that if Fallujah was one of these cities, we would have to retake it from the enemy in the coming months.
Over the summer and fall, the Fallujah cancer grew, and few leaders in MNF-I, in the Iraqi government, in the Coalition partners or at home in America could accept the status quo there. Too much violence from Fallujah was moving north to Mosel, east to Baghdad and south to Sunni insurgents who were in a very good position to impact our main supply route into Baghdad. It was decided that Fallujah had to be taken before the election of January 2005.
From my earlier experiences, I insisted the retaking of Fallujah would be a Corps operation. When we eventually attacked the enemy there, we would have to be ready for the same kind of nationwide uprising that we experienced in April. The Corps is a resource provider, and I ordered that the fuel, water and ammunition available inside Iraq be doubled. For example, we went from storing 7 million gallons of diesel fuel in Iraq to almost 15 million gallons. Subordinate commanders across the Coalition were brought into the planning process. Senior commanders and civilian leaders supported our planning process with very positive coordination. For once, the bureaucrats were prone to say “yes” instead of “no” and the full power of the Coalition would be brought upon the enemy in Fallujah. My staff recommended the name of this operation be called Operation Phantom Fury, and as the Commander of Fort Hood, Texas’s Phantom Corps, I approved. Fury was a very good description of my intent.Read the full post and comments »