The Accidental Statesman

US ARMY SERGEANTS MAJOR ACADEMY Master Leader Course

 

The Accidental Statesman: General Petraeus and the City of Mosul, Iraq



In late April 2003, Major General David Petraeus and the US Army’s 101 st

Airborne Division entered

the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, capital of Nineveh Province. It was less than a month since the start of

the US invasion of Iraq. But US troops had already captured Baghdad, dictator Saddam Hussein had fled

and, while security was still an overriding concern, the US military was no longer in full battle mode. In

Mosul, Petraeus quickly found himself confronting the question: What next?

 

The city of 1.7 million was a shambles as much from looting as from war. US Marines had just killed

17 Iraqis during a riot. The streets were in chaos, with police and other security forces nowhere to be seen.

The city had no electricity, running water or garbage removal. Shops were closed. Most public buildings

and factories lay in ruins. There was no administrative or economic infrastructure; ministries in

Baghdad which under Saddam had controlled all economic activity were now inoperative. Those who had

led the old Iraq had vanished: political leaders, judges, university faculty, teachers, factory managers,

ministry directors. The most senior of them were anyway suspect as members of the reviled former ruling

Baath, Party.

 

Addressing these deficiencies was hardly standard military business. But there was no one else to do

it. As Petraeus saw it, his task was to provide the building blocks for a new Iraqi society. How, the

general wondered, could he and his “Screaming Eagles” –as the division had been known since World

War II–reestablish conditions for normal daily life and help create the norms of a democratic society?

Whom could he trust? What was most urgent? What message should he give his troops? What was the

trade-offs between security and building bridges to the local population?

 

Petraeus found himself arbitrating a dizzying array of questions: How could he involve Iraqis in the

rebuilding? Should there be elections? If so, who should stand? Could some Baath Party officials retain

their jobs? If so, which ones? How and who should pay the thousands of unemployed civil servants?

 

What about controlling inflation? Should border crossings reopen for trade? How could he re-start the

university, open banks, and foster the creation of new businesses? What about the media? Underlying

these operational dilemmas lay a deeper uncertainty: could Petraeus establish himself as a leader whose

decisions were not only appropriate–but whose style would command the respect of a society not his

own?

 

Run-up to Mosul

When the 101 st

Airborne first crossed into Iraq from Kuwait on Friday, March 21, 2003, Petraeus had

not known that the division would be sent to Mosul. In fact, the entire short war, like its lead-up, had been

one of continual adaptation to changing circumstances. Petraeus had gotten word only on February 6 that

the division, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, would deploy to Kuwait for possible hostilities against

 

 Reproduced with permission and may not be further reproduced. Kennedy School of Government Case Program C1S-06-1834.0Q This case was

written by Kirsten Lundberg for Assistant Professor Hannah Riley Bowles and Senior Associate Dean Peter Zimmerman, John F. Kennedy

School of Government, Harvard University. (0306)

 

 

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Iraq. Though long anticipated, that gave him barely six weeks to move more than 18,000 soldiers, over

5,000 vehicles, hundreds of containers, and 256 helicopters (including 72 Apaches valued at $20 million

each) to Kuwait. The campaign known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, which US policymakers characterized

as liberating Iraq, started on March 20. The US led a coalition of forces which, while heavily American,

also included troops from Britain, Spain, Poland, Italy and elsewhere.

The 101 st

was a division of light infantry designated “air assault” because of its numerous helicopters (the most of any division in the world). Its core was three infantry brigades of over 4,000 soldiers each, led respectively in spring 2003 by Colonel Benjamin Hodges (161), Colonel Joseph Anderson (2nd) and

Colonel Michael Linnington (3rd). It also had a Division Artillery (three battalions), two aviation brigades (nine battalions), a Division Support Command (five battalions), as well as engineer, signal, air defense,

and military intelligence battalions. 1

It was called “airborne” for its history, which included parachuting into Normandy on D-Day in June 1944. Division units had since served in Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Going into Iraq, it had the unique capability of transporting troops far into the

enemy’s rear, as much as 150 kilometers in a single lift.

In Iraq, the division knew it was in for a fight. The 101 st

first fought its way north to the city of An

Najaf, site of the holiest shrine in Shiite Islam with a population of over 500,000. The 1 st

and 2 nd

Brigades subdued An Najaf by April 1, the first major city cleared by the US-led coalition. On April 6, the 2nd Brigade took Karbala, a major Shiite city 60 miles southwest of Baghdad. Several days later, the 3rd

Brigade captured the town of Al Hilla. 2

 

Then on Wednesday, April 9, the 101 st

was ordered to head for southern Baghdad below the Tigris River, where it expected to remain for a while. General Petraeus and his officers selected a former weapons factory, the Al Qadisiyah State Establishment, as divisional headquarters, and moved in on Sunday. “We thought the farthest we were going to go was a little bit north of Baghdad,” recalls

Petraeus. 3

Saddam Hussein’s government had collapsed on April 9 and on Monday, April 14, the

Pentagon declared an end to major hostilities in Iraq. While the 101 st

had faced occasionally stiff resistance, it lost only two soldiers in combat, with some 50 wounded.

 

But the 101 st

assignment was just beginning. Far from staying in Baghdad, the division learned on Friday, April 18, that it would be dispatched to northern Iraq to take control of Nineveh province and its

capital, Mosul. 4

The 101 st

was a replacement for the force originally assigned to the area: the 4th Infantry Division had been scheduled to enter Iraq from Turkey and occupy the northern sector. But on March 1, Turkey’s parliament had voted to prohibit US troops from using Turkish bases, and the 4th Infantry was headed instead–after considerable delay and a detour via the Persian Gulf–through Kuwait to Baghdad.

The 101 st , says Colonel Anderson, was sent to Mosul because “we were available” and, with its helicopter

fleet, could get there fast. 5

The result was that the 101 st

arrived in Mosul with minimal information about the city, its people, or the surrounding province.

 

Arrival

The sector for which Petraeus would be responsible stretched from the Syrian border in the west to

Kurdish territory in the north and east–an area measuring 75,000 square kilometers. 6

His first decisions were tactical–where should he place which troops? Clearly, Mosul was the center of gravity and would have to be secured first. Because the 2nd Brigade would occupy the city center, Petraeus sent Colonel Anderson to reconnoiter Mosul and report back in detail. How to deploy on the ground would be their call. Notes Petraeus:

 

 

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“It literally was my decision. Nobody above us knew more than we did. It wasn’t as if the staff had

any great expertise on Nineveh and northern Iraq. There was nobody we could turn to that could tell us

anything about northern Iraq, other than locals once we got there.”

Anderson arrived at noon on Sunday, April 20 at the Mosul airfield. 7

There he found a small force of

Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, as well as some Special Forces. 8

Anderson heard conflicting reports about the state of affairs in Mosul. The Marines told him it was dangerous; the Special Forces painted a calmer picture.

 

The Marines had reason to fear the city. Mosul had fallen to a handful of Special Forces and Kurdish

peshmerga without a fight as the defending Iraq Army’s Fifth Corps simply melted away. But–as the

Marines told Anderson upon arrival–on Tuesday, April 15, the Marines had been forced to subdue a riot

that broke out in front of the governor’s office after Mishaan al Jabouri, a local leader suspected of ties to

Saddam Hussein, had declared himself mayor. During two days of violence, the Marines shot and killed

17 Iraqis. As a result, troops at the airfield were in a state of high alert. As Anderson characterizes their

posture: “As soon as the sun goes down, anything that moves–be it a dog, a garbage can or a person–gets

shot at.”

 

Nonetheless, Anderson decided to take a “commander’s reconnaissance” drive around Mosul in order

to test the waters and come up with a recommendation for Petraeus. Up to this point, with the military in

battle mode, orders had been to “shoot first, ask questions later,” recalls Anderson. But with the declared

end to hostilities, operations had entered a different phase, although its rules of engagement were still

unclear. The questions Anderson was asking himself were: “How do we occupy Mosul? Do we land on

the outside and fight our way in, or do we just go in and occupy?” There was only one way to find out,

says Anderson: do as he had done in Kosovo.

 

“Go right into the heart of it. If I get shot at, if I get rocks thrown at me, if everybody surrounds the

vehicles, I know we’ve got a problem. So we drove right in there just to figure out what was going to be

the reaction.”

 

His three-vehicle convoy consulted a rudimentary map of the city. After a six-hour drive in a Humvee

and no unpleasant incidents, Anderson had what he wanted. He decided to occupy the city, not attack it–

and radioed that recommendation to Petraeus, who approved it. As for deployment, Anderson had found a

location for his brigade headquarters–an old hospital compound near City Hall in the center of town.

Based on the day’s observations, he also had a plan for where to locate company and battalion command

posts.

 

On April 21, the Division launched the longest air assault in its history, transporting over 1,500 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade to Mosul in one lift. Ground vehicles came separately with the balance of the

force. In less than 24 hours, Colonel Anderson moved his brigade into the city. Once all had arrived, Anderson had 6,000 troops at his command: 4 infantry battalions, a military police battalion, an artillery

battalion, an engineer company, a tank company, a military intelligence company, a signal company, a

support battalion and an air cavalry squadron. 9

Importantly, Anderson decided to establish for his soldiers a restrictive rule of engagement: shoot only when fired upon. The tactic was risky; he might lose some

men. But, he explains, “I knew that any Iraqi that we killed was going to be one more challenge that I didn’t need … This is risk taking: doing things without being told, say I’m going to do it and ask

permission later.” In subsequent weeks, the 1st Brigade flew from Najaf and Hilla to Qayyarrah, where it established its headquarters and took responsibility for the area south of Mosul; while the 3rd Brigade

redeployed from Baghdad to the Tal Afar airfield and took control of the western sector of Nineveh, including the border with Syria.

 

 

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Petraeus arrived at Mosul airfield on Tuesday, April 22. He decided to locate the main division

headquarters in a former palace of Saddam Hussein’s across the Tigris River and a few kilometers north of

Anderson’s hindquarters. Although he would have preferred a less symbolic location, the general needed

a space that could accommodate thousands of people–staff, a signal battalion, military intelligence,

civil affairs, and engineers. The complex of palace buildings was also empty and defensible–

a key consideration in a war zone. As the troops deployed to their new bases, Petraeus began his own

version of a commander’s recon–but of the political and economic, as well as the military, landscape. To

this task, he brought singular qualifications.

 

David H. Petraeus

The man handed the task of running Mosul and Nineveh in April 2003 was a career military officer. He was born in 1952, son of Sixtus Petraeus, a Dutch sea captain who fled Holland for the US during

World War II. At 17, David Petraeus enrolled at the US Military Academy at West Point, from which he

graduated near the top of his class in 1974. His concentration was premed–a subject selected, he later

confessed, because “it was the toughest.” At 5 feet 9 inches, the newly minted second lieutenant was one

of two class members who were “star” men (for academic achievement), had earned a varsity letter and

had attained the rank of Cadet Captain. He married Holly Knowlton, daughter of the West Point

superintendent, whom he’d met on a blind date.

 

After a stint at the elite US Army Ranger School, his assignments took him quickly to high echelons. In addition to normal infantry assignments, he served as a special assistant to NATO Supreme Commander John R. Galvin, aide to Army Chief of Staff Carl Vuono, and executive officer for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry H. Shelton. Petraeus’ tours with Vuono and Shelton entailed countless trips overseas, allowing him to observe firsthand senior officers dealing at high levels with their foreign counterparts. He also learned how to work in the interagency environment of Washington. His West Point yearbook entry captured his approach to life: whether in athletics, academics, or other endeavors, he was

always “going for it….a striver to the max.” 10

 

In 1987, Petraeus earned a PhD in international relations and economics from Princeton University’s

Woodrow Wilson School. His thesis title was “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam.” By

1991, he was commander of a battalion in the 101 st

Airborne. On September 21, he was watching an

infantry squad conduct a live-fire exercise when a rifleman tripped and fell. The soldier inadvertently shot off an M-16 round, which went right through Petraeus’ chest. The young officer was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where Petraeus’ commanding officer summoned from a golf game the top surgeon available. Dr. William Frist, who in 1994 was elected senator from Tennessee and in 2002 became Senate Majority Leader, operated on Petraeus. The two became enduring friends. But Petraeus was not done tempting fate. In 2000, while serving as a brigadier general at Fort Bragg, he

survived the collapse of his parachute 60 feet above the ground. It was his 88th free-fall jump. With his pelvis screwed together, Petraeus returned to active duty. “It made me faster,” he recounts with a smile.

 

Several of his assignments took him abroad. Petraeus’ first assignment was to Italy with an elite

airborne unit that participated in NATO exercises throughout Europe. He spent a summer in Panama in

the mid-1980s on temporary duty for General Galvin, then-commander of the US Southern Command

which was helping EI Salvador combat an insurgency. In the late 1980s, he worked for Galvin again at

NATO’s Supreme Headquarters in Europe, and then did a tour with an infantry battalion in Germany.

Petraeus spent the spring of 1995 as operations officer for the United Nations Mission as it established

itself in Haiti. He oversaw the risky decision to send multinational troops out from the comparative safety

of the capital, Port-au-Prince, into the countryside to bring order to the country as a whole.

 

 

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While the assistant division commander for operations of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1989,

Petraeus served a month-long stint as commander of then-Lieutenant General Tommy Franks’ forward unit

in Kuwait. After his parachuting accident, Petraeus in 2001-2002 worked in Bosnia as assistant chief of

staff for operations for the NATO-led SFOR (Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina). In

Bosnia, he also served as deputy commander of a joint task force for war criminal operations, and then

after September 11 as deputy commander of a counter-terrorism joint interagency task force. There

Petraeus had the opportunity to work with all the US intelligence agencies plus all the elements of the

Special Forces, teaching him how indispensable first-rate intelligence was to effective military operations.

He also learned the mechanics of multinational operations in a complex ethno-religious context.

In July 2002, Petraeus returned to the US to assume command of the 101 st

Airborne. By the time the

division reached Mosul, it had been well tested in battle. The next weeks and months would test it in

peace.

 

Who’s Job to Rebuild?

 

Petraeus had concluded as early as his time in Al Hilla that the task of rebuilding Iraq would be enormous. “I understand the intellectual aversion to nation-building,” he told a reporter, referring to the

philosophy of some in the Bush Administration. “On the other hand, I don’t see how you avoid it.” 11

In his few days in An Najaf, he had gone so far as to reopen the airport, bring in the Red Crescent (Red Cross) Society, and seek an audience with an influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. “He thought

he could set up An Najaf as a showcase,” says Colonel William Abb, the 101 st

chief of plans and exercises from June 2002 to June 2003. Even in southern Baghdad–to jumpstart the evolution from combat to post-hostilities–he had commissioned an assessment of hospitals, clinics, the infrastructure, power generators and water purification. “I’d already made my first visit to an electrical generating plant, had already started figuring out: Can we get little bits of money to clean up the streets? Who are these guys that are mukhtars, what’s their role? Who are the main sheikhs in the city?” remembers Petraeus.

But Petraeus had anticipated only short-term involvement in answering these questions be it in

Baghdad or elsewhere. Like the rest of the top military officers in Iraq, Petraeus had come to Iraq focused on fighting a war, not on rebuilding a society. Most post-conflict restructuring would, they had all believed, fall to the civilian Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA)–an interagency organization established to manage postwar reconstruction, governance and assistance in

Iraq. 12

Retired Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner arrived in Iraq on April 21 as head of ORHA and the chief US administrator in Iraq. “We had been told that ORHA, working together with Iraqi exiles and Iraqis who would be on the job, would take the lead,” remembers Petraeus. “We would be in a supporting role.”

 

Army and Peacekeeping. However, during what was envisioned as a brief interim period until ORHA could get up and running the Army’s V Corps would handle some administrative functions (post-conflict activities). Its initial so-called Civil-Military Operations (CMO) strategy, designed in the final days of the military conflict, was intended to “set the conditions for the battle hand-off” to ORHA and, eventually, a

new Iraqi government. 13

The strategy had three goals: provide a secure environment, restore basic life

services, and facilitate a return to normalcy. Under these overarching categories came some 15 specific objectives, such as reestablishing electricity and water supplies; food distribution; restoring public safety forces (police, fire, and prisons); reopening schools; the restoration of civil government; and securing public records, cultural sites and financial institutions. But while the goals and objectives were spelled out, the strategies were not. Commanders on the ground would have to figure it out. In the case of Nineveh, as Assistant Division Commander for Operations (ADC-O) Brigadier General Benjamin

 

 

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Freakley recalls, “there was no guidance going up there. The guidance was get to Mosul, secure the

situation, and get it as stable as you can.”

Peace-building, or nation-building, was not new to the Army. Neither the military brass nor the Bush

Administration, however, had much enthusiasm for it. As then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said in 2001, “there is nothing wrong with nation building, but not when it’s done by the American

military.” 14

Nonetheless, the US military had accumulated experience with just that in Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), Somalia (1993), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1995), Kosovo (1999) and Afghanistan (2001).

Military forces had also, on an ad hoc basis, contributed to humanitarian assistance and economic

development.

 

Meanwhile, ORHA had at least a rudimentary presence in northern Iraq, where Petraeus was headed.

A Region North CONOP (Concept of Operations) plan stipulated that ORHA’s priority task was to

“facilitate and integrate all available resources” for humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and civil

administration, and to direct the transition to an Iraqi-led government. In a presentation on April 20,

ORHA Region North Coordinator Major General (retired) Bruce Moore listed his intentions: to meet with

community leaders at all levels, to determine overall priorities, and to aim for quick impact. He cited as

major problems oil distribution, water, power, medical care, salaries, and ethnic and political tensions.

But to address these and other problems, Moore had only about 10 staff–not a large force. Moreover,

ORHA North was headquartered in the guesthouse of Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in Irbil, a peaceful area northeast of Mosul and well inside the Kurdish zone. Moore proposed to open offices in Mosul and Kirkuk only 15-90 days later. This was too late for Petraeus, who was already in Mosul and facing urgent

challenges. Petraeus quickly surmised that, for the time being, the 101 st

would have to pick up the slack.

For the time being, ORHA was simply too small and too disorganized to deal with immediate crises.

In fact, ORHA itself did not last long. In mid-May, it metamorphosed into another agency: the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). CPA published a comprehensive strategic plan for post-hostilities Iraq,

dubbed” A Vision to Empower Iraqis,” only in late July 2003. 16

So for now, in April 2003, the 101 st

coordinated with ORHA, and even sent them a staff lawyer, Major Susan Arnold, who became their chief of operations. But the division set its own course.

 

Technically, the military’s post-conflict plan–known as Phase Four Bravo–was scheduled to go into

effect on May 2. However, the swift battlefield victory had accelerated that schedule. As one observer

noted:

“Why were the soldiers of the 101 st

Airborne Division–who were trained to clean latrines but not to

build them–given the daunting task of making the cities and villages of northern Iraq work again?

Because when they were ordered 300 miles north of Baghdad after the city fell, there was no one else

around to do it.” 17

 

 

For his own part, Petraeus felt fortunate as he considered the next steps in Mosul to be able to draw

on his experiences in Central America, Haiti and Bosnia. As his chief of staff in Mosul, Thomas

Schoenbeck, remembers it, Petraeus “understood the reconstruction part of the war better than any of us

who had studied it or had some experience.” The general was apt to appraise issues at a strategic rather

than a tactical level. Recalls Shoenbeck: “He would say no, you have to think longer-range than that. You

have to think US national interest, and how are we going to achieve that up here in Mosul? And how is it

then going to affect things from Baghdad or in Baghdad?”

 

His commanders, too, had peacekeeping experience. Colonel Anderson had served in Kosovo, where

he commanded the first US battalion into the area; and had fought as a company commander in Panama.

 

 

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Anderson had also taught at the Naval War College for two years. Colonel Linnington was just back from

several months in Afghanistan, and Colonel Hodges had served in Bosnia; and been a senior observer at

the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Unlike the traditional, big-battle

approach taken at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin (California), the JRTC emphasized low-

intensity conflict and nation building. Role playing exercises obliged commanders and soldiers to interact

with local officials and citizens. “The scenarios proved to be very instructive,” says Petraeus (who led a

brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division through a rotation there in 1987).

 

Meet and Greet

As Petraeus considered how to approach his assignment in Mosul, he first asked for a quick history

lesson. The city, he learned, was ancient, a once-walled bastion dating back some 3,500 years and

renowned in the Bible as Nineveh. Its population numbered 1.7 million; the province had over 3.5 million

people. A center of nationalism, Mosul had a proud history of military leadership; thousands of generals

were native sons. Mosul had been headquarters for the Iraqi Fifth Corps. It was also a distinguished

university town, an oil center and a commercial crossroads. Finally, the cosmopolitan city was the most

ethnically diverse in Iraq–which also made it a potential flashpoint for ethnic tensions. A Sunni Arab

majority obtained, but the city–as well as its surrounding region–was home to numerous other groups:

Shiite Arabs, Kurds (from two political camps), Shabak, Turkmen, Assyrian Christians and Yezidi.

 

Petraeus already knew from pre-war briefings how the economy and politics used to work in Iraq.

Under Saddam, all orders emanated from central ministries in Baghdad. Each industry or functional area had a ministry, and each ministry had directors general in each province. Resources flowed from the ministry headquarters in Baghdad to the directors general in the provinces, bypassing provincial governors. On the political front, Saddam and the Baath Party controlled everything. Governors and provincial councils had mostly symbolic influence on activities within their jurisdictions. But that was about the extent of what he knew. As ADC-O Freakley puts it: “The commanding general found himself

in a very violent, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment.” 18

 

The next step was to find out who in Mosul had controlled what. In Kosovo, remembers Anderson,

State Department diplomatic observers knew who the power brokers were. But in Mosul there were no State Department observers–and even had there been any, the previous power brokers had long since departed when the regime fell. Accordingly, Petraeus called a meeting on Wednesday, April 23, his first full day in town, of 40 retired Iraqi generals. The Iraqi army had been notoriously top-heavy: an army of

some 500,000 was overseen by 11,000 generals and 14,000 colonels. 19

A good number of these former army officers lived in Mosul, and the 40 generals claimed to represent some 1,000 former officers in the province.

 

From the generals, Petraeus secured a general commitment to help restore order. He then began to

identify and contact local tribal chiefs, emerging political leaders, university professors, judicial figures,

religious leaders, and local businessmen, hoping to learn who represented which factions within the city

and province. Early reports were not only that looting and petty crime had destroyed large sections of the

city, but that–absent Saddam’s strong hand–ethnic rivalries were reasserting themselves, with almost

daily skirmishes and shootings. Petraeus was prepared to do a lot of mediation work himself. As he saw

it, leadership can mean simultaneously setting a vision and, as necessary, micromanagement. He

amplifies:

 

Some people will say Petraeus is way down into details, and I have that capacity. Others will say

‘Man, he just let me do my thing.’ The truth is it takes all of the above. Leadership styles should vary

depending on who is being led, how much detailed guidance and supervision they need, and their capacity

for sound, independent action.

 

 

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As early as Saturday, April 26, four days after his arrival, Petraeus sat in on a meeting between two

key political rivals. Brigadier General Eyad Hamdany was the regional representative of the Iraqi

National Congress–a party of exiles led by Ahmed Chalabi. Hamdany had defected in 1982, and was a

leader of a large, influential Mosul family. Mishaan al Jabouri was the politician whose claims on the

steps of City Hall had sparked the mid-April riot in which Marines shot Iraqis. Jabouri was a divisive

figure, suspected by many Iraqis of doing business with Saddam’s son Uday, then fleeing with hundreds

of thousands of dollars. But he was also an acknowledged leader, head of the so-called Fatherland Party,

and member of a powerful clan. Hamdany and Al Jabouri typically argued–forcefully and loudly.

Petraeus told them, as well as others who were quickly brought into the process that it was “okay to shout,

but not to shoot”. 20

The Iraqis were to discuss how best to establish an interim local authority.

As Petraeus saw it, the Army had two choices in Mosul. “We could either fill the vacuum completely ourselves,” he later said, “In which case over time it would be increasingly more difficult to extricate ourselves from running everything. Or we could start the process of getting Iraqis involved in self-

government and filling that vacuum. 21

He decided on the second course. “When you have to carry a particularly heavy rucksack,” he observes (using an infantry metaphor) it sure helps to have others help shoulder the load.” At that point, he had only a general notion of where he wanted to go–but a determination to involve Iraqis in running their country. As he puts it: “You’ve got to have some general guidelines and a general approach–and then you’ve got to get after it.”

 

Staging a (S)election

To Petraeus, the best way to engage Iraqis in rebuilding their own country was to give them at least

the semblance of a representative government. To him, that meant some form of elections. Petraeus and

his staff discussed the fact that in Afghanistan, by contrast with Iraq, an interim government was in place

within weeks of toppling the Taliban. It had worked there. Admittedly, there were other options–such as

imposing a military regime on the city, or appointing a government composed of the least-tainted former

leaders. But these would not involve Iraqis in building their own future.

At the same time, there were plenty of obstacles to staging an election. For one, there was no

template–the 101 st

would have to make it up as it went along. Petraeus and his staff did debate whether it was best to wait for the UN or ORHA to run elections. But ORHA had as yet no national plan for elections, and it could be as long as two years before such could be organized. Petraeus knew, says chief of staff Schoenbeck, “that he was getting out in front of any elections that would ever take place in Baghdad.”

 

But General Petraeus was a guy who was willing to take some risks. He knew that to stabilize the

northern region, and to prevent riots and to pin the responsibility back on the Iraqi people and to get them

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