The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade of fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher.


Washington increased military benefits in late 2001 as the nation went to war, seeking to quickly bolster its talent pool and expand its ranks. Those decisions and the protracted nation-building efforts launched in both countries will generate expenses for years to come, Linda J. Bilmes, a public policy professor, wrote in the report that was released Thursday.


“As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives,”the report says. “The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.”


Bilmes said the United States has spent almost $2 trillion already for the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those costs, she said, are only a fraction of the ultimate price tag. The biggest ongoing expense will be providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans of the two conflicts.

“Historically, the bill for these costs has come due many decades later,” the report says, noting that the peak disbursement of disability payments for America’s warriors in the last century came decades after the conflicts ended. “Payments to Vietnam and first Gulf War veterans are still climbing.”

U.S. Marines carry injured colleague to a helicopter near Falluja.

Spending borrowed money to pay for the wars has also made them more expensive, the study noted. The conflicts have added $2 trillion to America’s debt, representing roughly 20 percent of the debt incurred between 2001 and 2012.

Bilmes’s estimate provides a higher range than another authoritative study on the same issue by Brown University’s Eisenhower Research Project. Brown researchers put the price tag at roughly $4 trillion.

Both figures are dramatically higher than what U.S. officials projected they would spend when they were planning to go to war in Iraq. Stephen Friedman, a senior White House official, left government in 2002 after irking his colleagues by publicly estimating that the Iraq war could end up costing up to $200 billion.


It’s unclear how long Washington will keep paying bills for that conflict, which dragged on for nearly a decade and became deeply unpopular at home and in Iraq. Judging from history, it could take quite awhile. The Associated Press recently found that the federal government is still cutting checks each month to relatives of Civil War veterans nearly 150 years after the end of that war.


By Ernesto Londoño, March 28, 2013

Repressive Arab regimes and their ideologies fuelled bin Laden and his supporters, and his death should wake them up.

Osama bin Laden is a product of Wahhabi teachings [GALLO/GETTY]
Osama bin Laden’s death in his Pakistani hiding place is like the removal of a tumour from the Muslim world. But aggressive follow-up therapy will be required to prevent the remaining al-Qaeda cells from metastasising by acquiring more adherents who believe in violence to achieve the ‘purification’ and empowerment of Islam.

Fortunately, bin Laden’s death comes at the very moment when much of the Islamic world is being convulsed by the treatment that bin Laden’s brand of fanaticism requires: the Arab Spring, with its demands for democratic empowerment (and the absence of demands, at least so far, for the type of Islamic rule that al-Qaeda sought to impose).

But can the nascent democracies being built in Egypt and Tunisia, and sought in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere, see off the threats posed by Islamic extremists? In particular, can it defeat the Salafi/Wahhabi thought that has long nurtured Osama bin Laden and his ilk, and which remains the professed and protected ideology of Saudi Arabia?

The fact is that before the US operation to kill bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s symbolic head, the emerging democratic Arab revolutions had already, in just a few short months, done as much to marginalise and weaken his terrorist movement in the Islamic world as the war on terror had achieved in a decade. Those revolutions, whatever their ultimate outcome, have exposed the philosophy and behaviour of bin Laden and his followers as not only illegitimate and inhumane, but actually inept at achieving better conditions for ordinary Muslims.

What millions of Arabs were saying as they stood united in peaceful protest was that their way of achieving Arab and Islamic dignity is far less costly in human terms. More importantly, their way will ultimately achieve the type of dignity that people really want, as opposed to the unending wars of terror to rebuild the caliphate that Bin Laden promised.

After all, the protesters of the Arab Spring did not need to use – and abuse – Islam to achieve their ends. They did not wait for God to change their condition, but took the initiative by peacefully confronting their oppressors. The Arab revolutions mark the emergence of a pluralist, post-Islamist banner for the faithful. Indeed, the only people to introduce religion into the protests have been rulers, such as those in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, who have tried to use fear of the Shia or Sunni “other” to continue to divide and misrule their societies.

Bin Laden’s era

Now that the US has eradicated bin Laden’s physical presence, it needs to stop delaying the rest of the therapeutic process. For the US has been selectively – and short-sightedly – irradiating only parts of the cancer that al-Qaeda represents, while leaving the malignant growth of Saudi Wahabism and Salafism untouched. Indeed, despite the decade of the West’s war on terror, and Saudi Arabia’s longer-term alliance with the US, the Kingdom’s Wahhabi religious establishment has continued to bankroll Islamic extremist ideologies around the world.

Bin Laden, born, raised, and educated in Saudi Arabia, is a product of this pervasive ideology. He was no religious innovator; he was a product of Wahhabism, and later was exported by the Wahhabi regime as a jihadist.

During the 1980’s, Saudi Arabia spent $75 bn for the propagation of Wahhabism, funding schools, mosques, and charities throughout the Islamic world, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria, and beyond. The Saudis continued such programs after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and even after they discovered that “the Call” is uncontrollable, owing to the technologies of globalisation. Not surprisingly, the creation of a transnational Islamic political movement, boosted by thousands of underground jihadi websites, has blown back into the Kingdom.

Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi/Wahhabi ideological exports (15 of the 19 men who carried out those terror attacks were chosen by bin Laden because they shared the same Saudi descent and education as he), Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact.

So the real battle has not been with bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory. Bin Laden merely reflected the entrenched violence of the Kingdom’s official ideology.

Bin Laden’s eradication may strip some dictators, from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, of the main justification they have used for their decades of repression. But the US knows perfectly well that al-Qaeda is an enemy of convenience for Saleh and other American allies in the region, and that in many cases, terrorism has been used as a pretext to repress reform. Indeed, now the US is encouraging repression of the Arab Spring in Yemen and Bahrain, where official security forces routinely kill peaceful protesters calling for democracy and human rights.

Al-Qaeda and democracy cannot coexist. Indeed, bin Laden’s death should open the international community’s eyes to the source of his movement: repressive Arab regimes and their extremist ideologies. Otherwise, his example will continue to haunt the world.

Mai Yamani’s most recent book is Cradle of Islam.

A version of this article first appeared on Project Syndicate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera /05 May 2011

An American soldier in Iraq who was arrested on charges of leaking a video of a deadly American helicopter attack here in 2007 has also been charged with downloading more than 150,000 highly classified diplomatic cables that could, if made public, reveal the inner workings of American embassies around the world, the military here announced Tuesday.

The full contents of the cables remain unclear, but according to formal charges filed Monday, it appeared that a disgruntled soldier working at a remote base east of Baghdad had gathered some of the most guarded, if not always scandalous, secrets of American diplomacy. He disclosed at least 50 of the cables “to a person not entitled to receive them,” according to the charges.

With the charges, a case that stemmed from the furor over a graphic and fiercely contested video of an attack from an American helicopter that killed 12 people, including a reporter and a driver for Reuters, mushroomed into a far more extensive and potentially embarrassing leak.

The charges cited only one cable by name, “Reykjavik 13,” which appeared to be one made public by, a whistle-blowing Web site devoted to disclosing the secrets of governments and corporations. The Web site decoded and in April made public an edited version of the helicopter attack in a film it called “Collateral Murder.”
In the cable, dated Jan. 13, the American deputy chief of mission, Sam Watson, detailed private discussions he held with Iceland’s leaders over a referendum on whether to repay losses from a bank failure, including a frank assessment that Iceland could default in 2011. (The referendum failed, but negotiations continue.)

WikiLeaks, which reportedly operated in Iceland for a time, disclosed a second cable from the nation in March profiling its leaders, including Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir.

Although hardly sensational in tone, the cable does reveal a complaint over the “alleged use of Icelandic airspace by C.I.A.-operated planes” by the Icelandic ambassador to the United States, Albert Jonsson, who is described as “prickly but pragmatic.” Such are the sorts of assessments that diplomats go to great lengths to keep private.

WikiLeaks has not acknowledged receiving the cables or video from the soldier, Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, 22, who worked as an analyst and whose case has been the subject of vigorous debate between defenders and critics.
Private Manning, who served with the Second Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, based at Contingency Operating Station Hammer, was arrested in May and transferred to a military detention center in Kuwait after the military authorities said he had revealed his activities in online chats with a former computer hacker, who turned him in.

Private Manning now faces an Article 32 investigation, the military’s equivalent of a civilian grand jury, into charges that he mishandled classified information “with reason to believe the information could cause injury to the United States.”

That investigation could lead to administrative punishments or more likely, given the gravity of the charges, a court-martial.
Officially he has been charged with four counts of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for disobeying an order or regulation and eight counts of violating Article 134, a general charge for misconduct, which in this case involved breaking federal laws against disclosing classified information.
The formal charges suggested an extensive effort by military investigators to scour the official and personal computers he used, in order to trace the recipients.
The charges cited unauthorized handling of classified information from Nov. 19, 2009, until May 27 this year, two days before his detention and well after the leak of the helicopter video. The charges accused him of using the classified network to obtain the “Reykjavik 13” cable on the day the one disclosed by WikiLeaks was written.
He was also charged with downloading a classified PowerPoint presentation, one of those heavily used by the American military, but what secrets it contained remained unknown.

Adrian Lamo, the former hacker who reported Private Manning to the authorities, has said that they struck up an online friendship in which the private complained of personal discontent with the military and American foreign policies.
Because the investigation continues, military officials here would not elaborate on the case.
The United States Embassy did not respond to a query. One senior commander, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the investigation, said, “It appeared he had an agenda.”


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KABUL, Afghanistan — United States forces killed six Afghan police officers and one civilian on Wednesday during an assault on the hide-out of a suspected Taliban commander, the authorities said, in what an American military spokesman called a “tragic case of mistaken identity.”


Thirteen Afghan officers were also wounded in the episode.
A statement issued jointly by the American and the Afghan military commands said a contingent of police officers fired on United States forces after the Americans had successfully overrun the hide-out, killing the suspected Taliban commander and detaining another man.

The statement said the Americans had already entered the hide-out, a building in Qalat, the capital of the southern province of Zabul, when they came under attack by small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from “a compound nearby.”
“Multiple attempts to deter the engagement were unsuccessful,” the statement said.
The Americans, concerned about women and children hiding in the building they had taken, returned fire using small arms and aircraft, the statement said.
After the firefight, the Americans discovered they had been shooting at Afghan police officers, the statement said.
But the deputy police chief of Qalat said the police officers had been in a police station when they came under American fire, which destroyed the station.
The official, Jailoni Khan Farahi, also said that the volley of bullets and grenades against the Americans had not originated from the police station but from a building nearby. He said he did not know who was occupying that building at the time.
While cases of Afghan security forces firing on coalition troops are rare, they have raised concerns in the American-led international force that insurgents may have infiltrated the Afghan Army and police force.
Zabul’s governor, Delbar Jan Arman, said a joint Afghan and American delegation of military and civilian officials was heading to the scene to investigate.
“Coalition forces deeply regret the incident of mistaken fire,” said Col. Jerry O’Hara, an American spokesman. “Initial reports indicate this was a tragic case of mistaken identity on both parts.”

Friendly-fire incidents between coalition soldiers and Afghan security forces have occasionally resulted in casualties, most often among Afghan police officers, who are not as well trained or equipped as the Afghan Army. But rarely have so many Afghan security personnel died in one episode.

In October, an airstrike in Khost Province by coalition forces killed nine Afghan soldiers and may have resulted from mistaken identity, American and Afghan officials said.
In June 2007, American forces called in air support when Afghan police officers opened fire on them during a hunt for Taliban militants. Seven Afghan policemen were killed.



By KIRK SEMPLE, December 11, 2008

The pictures show shredded limbs, burned faces, profusely bleeding wounds. The subjects are mostly American G.I.’s, but they include Iraqis and Afghans, some of them young children.

They appear in a new book, “War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003-2007,” quietly issued by the United States Army — the first guidebook of new techniques for American battlefield surgeons to be published while the wars it analyzes are still being fought.

Its 83 case descriptions from 53 battlefield doctors are clinical and bone dry, but the gruesome photographs illustrate the grim nature of today’s wars, in which more are hurt by explosions than by bullets, and body armor leaves many alive but maimed.

And the cases detail important advances in treating blast amputations, massive bleeding, bomb concussions and other front-line trauma.

Though it is expensively produced and includes a foreword by the ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was severely injured by a roadside bomb in 2006, “War Surgery” is not easy to find. There were strenuous efforts within the Army over the last year to censor the book and keep it out of civilian hands.

Paradoxically, the book is being issued as news photographers complain that they are being ejected from combat areas for depicting dead and wounded Americans.

But efforts to censor the book were overruled by successive Army surgeons general. It can be ordered from the Government Printing Office for $71; lists it as out of stock, but the Borden Institute, the Army medical office that published it, said thousands more copies would be printed.

“I’m ashamed to say that there were folks even in the medical department who said, Over my dead body will American civilians see this,” said Dr. David E. Lounsbury, one of the book’s three authors. Dr. Lounsbury, 58, an internist and retired colonel, took part in the 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq and was the editor of military medicine textbooks at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“The average Joe Surgeon, civilian or military, has never seen this stuff,” Dr. Lounsbury said. “Yeah, they’ve seen guys shot in the chest. But the kind of ferocious blast, burn and penetrating trauma that’s part of the modern I.E.D. wound is like nothing they’ve seen, even in a Manhattan emergency room. It’s a shocking, heart-stopping, eye-opening kind of thing. And they need to see this on the plane before they get there, because there’s a learning curve to this.”

The pictures of wounded children include some of a 5-year-old shot in a vehicle trying to run through a checkpoint. Other pictures show wounds riddled with dirt, genitals severed by a roadside bomb, a rib — presumably that of a suicide bomber — driven deep into a soldier’s body, and the tail of an unexploded rocket protruding from a soldier’s hip.

There are moments that reflect the desperation in the invaded country: an Afghan in the jaw-locked rictus of tetanus after home-treating a foot blown off by a landmine. And moments that reflect the modern American army: a soldier with unexplained pelvic pain that turns out to be a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.

The book was created to teach techniques that surgeons adopted, abandoning old habits.

For example, they no longer pump saline into a patient with massive trauma to try to get the blood pressure back up to 120. “You do that, you end up with a highly diluted, cold patient with no clotting factors, and the high pressure restarts bleeding,” Dr. Lounsbury said. Instead, they try to bring it up to just 80 or 90 with red cells and extra platelets, which encourage clotting.

Also, initial surgery even on a severely wounded patient may be brief — just enough to control hemorrhaging and prevent contamination by a torn bowel. Then the patient is returned to intensive care to warm up, raise the blood pressure and restore the electrolyte balance. The next operation is usually just enough to stabilize the patient for transport to a more sophisticated hospital, perhaps in Baghdad or Kabul, in Germany or the United States.

The book describes a surgeon who erred fatally by trying to do too much — a four-hour operation on a soldier who had lost a leg to a roadside bomb. The effort drained the forward hospital’s blood bank, and the patient died on the helicopter to the next hospital.

Also, neurosurgeons treating a blast victim now quickly remove a large section of the skull to relieve pressure, even if no shrapnel has penetrated. Such patients are sometimes able to walk and talk after a blast but then collapse and die as their brain swells.

The procedure is described by the surgeon who saved Mr. Woodruff’s life that way.

Amputations have also changed. Dr. Lounsbury’s brother lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, and in those days clean “guillotine” amputations were done as high as possible. Now surgeons try to preserve as much bone and flesh as they can, even if the stump is unsightly. Modern prosthetics are molded to it.

Doctors have also become quicker to diagnose “compartment syndrome” even in patients too sedated to feel pain; swelling in an injured muscle can cut off the blood supply, leading to gangrene and amputation. Surgeons now “fillet” the muscles to relieve the pressure, often even before it builds, since restitching healthy tissue is better than losing a limb.

And when morphine is not enough, nerve blocks — internal drips of local anesthetic, often given by a small pump held by the patient — have become common in pain control.

Dr. Ramanathan Raju, chief medical officer for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and a former trauma surgeon, viewed the book and said it would be “extremely useful” to civilian surgeons because of what it teaches about blast injuries and when a surgeon should stop to let a patient recover.

“The Army should be very happy about this,” Dr. Raju said. “In the past, people said, Oh, Army surgeons are like butchers, they’re not research oriented. This shows how skillful they are.”

One of the book’s most powerful aspects is its juxtaposition of operating room photographs with those of the war outside the tent. It is filled with random shots — burning vehicles, explosions, a medic carrying a child, another in a Santa Claus hat. It also has portraits of soldiers, often dazed and exhausted; one even has tears on his cheek.

Many are by David Leeson of The Dallas Morning News, who was embedded with the Third Infantry Division during the Iraq invasion and won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage.

Even more humanizing are photos of recovered patients: an Iraqi whose jaw was destroyed shown with it rebuilt, a soldier who lost half of his skull smiling at a ceremonial dinner with his wife, a soldier whose face was pulverized by a blast looking scarred but handsome a year later.

Military censors suggested numerous changes, including removing photos showing burning vehicles and the faces of any American wounded. They also wanted to excise references to branches of service and how injuries occurred.

For example, according to unclassified e-mail provided by the authors, one suggested removing this description: “A helmeted soldier suffered a forehead injury during the explosion of an improvised explosive device. He was a front seat passenger” in a Humvee. The censor suggested: “A 22-year-old male was hurt in a blast.”

Two in the chain of command who raised such objections — one civilian and one officer — said they did so only out of concern for patients’ privacy and for security reasons. For example, they said, mentions of wound patterns might tell the enemy that helmets and Humvees were vulnerable.

But the authors argued that it was crucial for surgeons to expect wounds behind armor and absurd to conceal that they occurred.

“The enemy knows that,” said Dr. Stephen P. Hetz, a retired colonel and co-author.

They also argued that the book was dedicated to soldiers and marines and that the wounded were proud to be identified as such. All whose faces were fully shown, whether American, Iraqi or Afghan, had given written permission, they said. If it was not obtained, patients’ eyes were covered with black bars. The random war photos, they argued, were as much as five years old and some had been in newspapers, so they would give enemies no useful information.

Censors also tried to prevent the book from getting a copyright and the international standard book number letting it be sold commercially, Dr. Lounsbury said.

Ultimately, they were overruled.

Kevin C. Kiley, a retired lieutenant general who was the Army’s surgeon general when the book was being prepared, said some higher-ups in the military had been worried that the pictures “could be spun politically to show the horrors of war.”

“The counter-argument to that, which I concurred with,” Dr. Kiley said, “was that this is a medical textbook that could save lives.”

He said it “absolutely” ought to be available to civilians, particularly to surgeons.

Dr. Hetz said that as a West Point graduate and onetime infantry officer — and as a former aide to two surgeons general, to whom he could appeal directly — he always had more faith than Dr. Lounsbury that the book would ultimately not be suppressed.

“There was never any doubt in my mind that the Army would publish this,” he said. “It was just a matter of getting around the nitwits.”

*Text By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. (NYT; August 5, 2008)

Soon after American forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, Gen. Tommy R. Franks surprised senior Army officers by revamping the Baghdad-based military command.

The decision reflected the assumption by General Franks, the top American commander for the Iraq invasion, that the major fighting was over. But according to a new Army history, the move put the military effort in the hands of a short-staffed headquarters led by a newly promoted three-star general, and was made over the objections of the Army’s vice chief of staff.

“The move was sudden and caught most of the senior commanders in Iraq unaware,” states the history, which adds that the staff for the new headquarters was not initially “configured for the types of responsibilities it received.”

The story of the American occupation of Iraq has been the subject of numerous books, studies and memoirs. But now the Army has waded into the highly charged debate with its own nearly 700-page account: “On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign.”

The unclassified study, the second volume in a continuing history of the Iraq conflict, is as noteworthy for who prepared it as for what it says. In essence, the study is an attempt by the Army to tell the story of one of the most contentious periods in its history to military experts — and to itself.

It adds to a growing body of literature about the problems the United States encountered in Iraq, not all of which has been embraced by Army leaders.

Lt. Col. Paul Yingling of the Army ignited a debate when he wrote a magazine article that criticized American generals for failing to prepare a coherent plan to stabilize postwar Iraq.

In 2005, the RAND Corporation submitted a report to the Army, called “Rebuilding Iraq,” that identified problems with virtually every government agency that played a role in planning the postwar phase. After a long delay, the report is scheduled to be made public on Monday.

But the “On Point” report carries the imprimatur of the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. The study is based on 200 interviews conducted by military historians and includes long quotations from active or recently retired officers.

Publication was delayed six months so that Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the current Army chief of staff and former top commander in Iraq, could be interviewed and senior Army leaders could review a draft.

The study’s authors were instructed not to shy away from controversy while withholding a final verdict on whether senior officials had made mistakes that decisively altered the course of the war, said Col. Timothy R. Reese, the director of the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who, along with Donald Wright, a civilian historian at the institute, oversaw the volume’s preparation.

Even so, the study documents a number of problems that hampered the Army’s ability to stabilize the country during Phase IV, as the postwar stage was called.

“The Army, as the service primarily responsible for ground operations, should have insisted on better Phase IV planning and preparations through its voice on the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the study noted. “The military means employed were sufficient to destroy the Saddam regime; they were not sufficient to replace it with the type of nation-state the United States wished to see in its place.”

For his part, General Franks said through an aide that he had covered Iraq decisions in his book and had not seen the forthcoming report.

The report focuses on the 18 months after President Bush’s May 2003 announcement that major combat operations in Iraq were over. It was a period when the Army took on unanticipated occupation duties and was forced to develop new intelligence-gathering techniques, armor its Humvees, revise its tactics and, after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, review its detention practices.

A big problem, the study says, was the lack of detailed plans before the war for the postwar phase, a deficiency that reflected the general optimism in the White House and in the Pentagon, led by then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, about Iraq’s future, and an assumption that civilian agencies would assume much of the burden.

“I can remember asking the question during our war gaming and the development of our plan, ‘O.K., we are in Baghdad, what next?’ No real good answers came forth,” Col. Thomas G. Torrance, the commander of the Third Infantry Division’s artillery, told Army historians.

The allied land war command, which was led by Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan and which reported to General Franks, did additional work on the postwar phase, but its plan was not formally distributed to the troops until April 2003, when the ground invasion was under way.

Inadequate training was also a factor. Lt. Col. Troy Perry, the operations officer of the First Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, told Army historians that his unit trained extensively, but not for the sort of problems that it would encounter in setting up “stability operations” for securing Iraq once Mr. Hussein’s government fell.

A fundamental assumption that hobbled the military’s planning was that Iraq’s ministries and institutions would continue to function after Mr. Hussein’s government was toppled.

“We had the wrong assumptions and therefore we had the wrong plan to put into play,” said Gen. William S. Wallace, who led the V Corps during the invasion and currently leads the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.

Faced with a brewing insurgency and occupation duties that they had not anticipated, Army units were forced to adapt. But organizational decisions made in May and June 2003 complicated that task.

L. Paul Bremer III, who replaced Jay Garner, the retired lieutenant general, as the chief civilian administrator in Iraq, issued decrees to disband the Iraqi Army and ban thousands of former Baath Party members from working for the government, orders that the study asserts caught American field commanders “off guard” and, in their view, “created a pool of disaffected and unemployed Sunni Arabs” that the insurgency could draw on.

Some of General Franks’s moves also appeared divorced from the growing problems in Iraq. Before the fall of Baghdad, Col. Kevin Benson, a planner at the land war command, developed a plan that called for using about 300,000 soldiers to secure postwar Iraq, about twice as many as were deployed.

But that was not what General Franks and the Bush administration had in mind. In an April 16 visit to Baghdad, General Franks instructed his officers to be prepared to reduce forces rapidly during an “an abbreviated period of stability operations,” the study notes.

“In line with the prewar planning and general euphoria at the rapid crumbling of the Saddam regime, Franks continued to plan for a very limited role for U.S. ground forces in Iraq,” the report says.

The next month, General Franks directed General McKiernan, then the senior officer in Baghdad, to leave Iraq, along with the staff of his land war command, which had helped plan the invasion and had overseen the push to Baghdad.

A new headquarters would be established to command the military forces in Iraq and was to be led by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez. He had led the First Armored Division into Iraq before being promoted and picked to succeed General Wallace as the head of the Army’s V Corps, which was to serve as the nucleus of the newly established command.

When Gen. Jack Keane, the vice chief of staff of the Army, learned of the move, he was upset. General Keane had helped General McKiernan assemble his headquarters, which had long been focused on Iraq and had more high-ranking officers than V Corps, which had been deployed from Europe. General Keane assumed that General McKiernan’s headquarters would oversee what was fast becoming a troubled occupation.

“I think we did not put the best experienced headquarters that we had in charge of that operation,” General Keane said in an interview with Army historians. “It took us months, six or seven or eight months, to get some semblance of a headquarters together so Sanchez could at least begin to function effectively.”

General Keane told the historians that he raised his concerns at the time with Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid, who had been picked to succeed General Franks as the head of Central Command.

“I said, ‘Jesus Christ, John, this is a recipe for disaster,’ ” General Keane told Army historians. “I was upset about it to say the least, but the decision had been made and it was a done deal.”

Asked about the decision to establish a new headquarters, General Franks told Army historians that he had told the Pentagon what was needed and that it was the Defense Department’s responsibility to ensure that the headquarters was rapidly installed.

He said he told the Pentagon leadership that a new headquarters was needed and that it was up to them to “figure it out.”

General Sanchez, who has retired from the Army and recently published a book about his time in Iraq, told historians that his new command was hampered by staff shortages and by the failure to coordinate the transfer of responsibilities to his new headquarters.

“There was not a single session that was held at the command level to hand off or transition anything,” he said.

Summing up the episode, General Wallace told historians that the shift to a new headquarters involved a complicated transfer of responsibilities at a critical time.

“You can’t take a tactical headquarters and change it into an operational headquarters at the snap of your fingers,” he said. “It just doesn’t happen.”

(WASHINGTON — June 29, 2008)

EVEN if American and Iraqi forces are able to eliminate Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are still three worrisome possibilities of new forms of fighting that could divide Iraq and deny the United States any form of “victory.”

One is that the Sunni tribes and militias that have been cooperating with the Americans could turn against the central government. The second is that the struggle among Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other ethnic groups to control territory in the north could lead to fighting in Kirkuk, Mosul or other areas.

The third risk — and one that is now all too real — is that the political struggle between the dominant Shiite parties could become an armed conflict.

Fighting is now occurring in southern Iraq and parts of Baghdad between the Mahdi Army, which is under the control of the populist cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and a coalition of forces led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a powerful party led by a Maliki ally, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. This latter coalition has de facto control of much of the Iraqi security forces, and Mr. Hakim’s group has its own militia, called the Badr Organization.

Much of the reporting on this fighting in Basra and Baghdad — which was initiated by the Iraqi government — assumes that Mr. Sadr and his militia are the bad guys who are out to spoil the peace, and that the government forces are the legitimate side trying to bring order. This is a dangerous oversimplification, and one that the United States needs to be far more careful about endorsing.

There is no question that many elements of the Mahdi Army have been guilty of sectarian cleansing, that the Sadr movement is hostile to the United States, that some of its extremists have continued acts of violence in spite of the cease-fire Mr. Sadr declared last summer, and that some of these rogue elements have ties to Iran. No one should romanticize the Sadr movement, understate the risks it presents or ignore the violent radicals in the Mahdi Army.

But it is equally important not to romanticize Mr. Maliki, the Dawa Party or the Islamic Supreme Council. The current fighting, which the government portrays as a crackdown on criminality, is better seen as a power grab, an effort by Mr. Maliki and the most powerful Shiite political parties to establish their authority over Basra and the parts of Baghdad that have eluded their grasp.

Moreover, Mr. Maliki’s gamble has already dragged American forces part-way into the fight, including airstrikes in Basra. Striking at violent, rogue elements in the Mahdi Army is one thing, but engaging the entire Sadr movement is quite another. The official cease-fire that has kept the mainstream Mahdi Army from engaging government and United States forces may well be rescinded if the government’s assault continues.

This looming power struggle was all too clear when I was in Iraq last month. The Supreme Council was the power behind the Shiite governorates in the south and was steadily expanding its influence over the Iraqi police. It was clearly positioning itself to counter Mr. Sadr’s popular support and preparing for the provincial elections scheduled for Oct. 1.

American military and civilian officials were candid in telling me that the governors and other local officials installed by the central government in Basra and elsewhere in southern Iraq had no popular base. If open local and provincial elections were held, they said, Dawa and the Islamic Supreme Council were likely to be routed because they were seen as having failed to bring development and government services.

There was no real debate over how bad the overall governance of the south was at the provincial level, how little money the region was getting from Baghdad, and how poor government-related services were, even in Shiite areas. Incompetence and corruption are not sectarian. An ABC News poll released this month showed that only two-thirds of the Shiite population in Basra had a favorable opinion of the central government, down from three-quarters last summer, and that only 14 percent of all residents felt they could move about safely.

The American officials I met with differed in their views of the size of Mr. Sadr’s populist base around Basra, but most felt that Mr. Sadr still had a broad base of support in Baghdad — something indicated by the huge rallies on his behalf in the capital last week.

As I traveled through southern Iraq, many people I spoke to were worried about how the October elections would play out. The first problem is that there are no real indigenous political parties operating with local leaders. The second is the framework, which is still undecided. If the election follows the model of the 2005 vote, Iraqis will vote for long lists of candidates from the main parties (confronting many unfamiliar names) and there will be no allowance for the direct election of members of the Parliament who would represent a given area or district. Optimists hope that local leaders and parties will emerge before the election; realists foresee an uncertain mess.

There were also differences of opinion over Mr. Sadr’s cease-fire. Was he simply waiting out the American-Iraqi effort to defeat Al Qaeda before allowing his army to become active again? Or was he repositioning himself for a more normal political life? Most likely, he is doing both. He may be as confused by the uncertain nature of Iraqi politics as everyone else, and he may be dealing with a movement so fractured and diverse that effective control is nearly impossible.

In any event, it is clear that Basra has become a special case. Since the American-led invasion, it had been under the protection of the British, who opted for a strategy of not-so-benign neglect. Thus the power struggle in the city — Iraq’s main port — differs sharply from that in the other Shiite areas. Basra was essentially divided up among Shiite party mafias, each of which had its own form of extortion and corruption. They sometimes fight and feud, and there are reasons to call them criminal gangs, but they have established crude modus vivendi.

Basra also feels the influence of Iran far more than the other Shiite governorates. Iran’s religious paramilitary force, Al Quds, has been an equal-opportunity supplier of weapons and money to all the Shiite militias, effectively ensuring that it will support the winner, regardless of who the winner turns out to be.

There are good reasons for the central government to reassert control of Basra. It is not peaceful. It is the key to Iraq’s oil exports. Gang rule is no substitute for legitimate government. But given the timing and tactics, it is far from clear that this offensive is meant to serve the nation’s interest as opposed to those of the Islamic Supreme Council and Dawa.

How will it affect America? If the fighting sets off a broad, lasting, violent power struggle between Shiite factions, most of the security gains of the last year could be lost and our military role broadened. There is also no guarantee that a victory by Dawa and the Islamic Supreme Council will serve the cause of political accommodation or lead to fair elections and the creation of legitimate local and provincial governments. Such an outcome, in fact, might favor a Dawa and Islamic Supreme Council “Iraqracy,” not democracy.

* By ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN (Washington, March 30,2008)

Anthony H. Cordesman is a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.