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Monday, January 15, 2007

NEWSWEEK: Army Ex-Vice Chief Knew That 'We Were in Deep S---'

Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief of staff, was stepping down just as the insurgency in Iraq started in late spring 2003.

"I went to Iraq in June, looked at it and I knew we werein deep s---," Keane tells Newsweek. "I was going out the door. I felt frustrated. Frustrated with the situation, frustrated with myself andeverything else. And somewhat guilty because I knew how ill prepared the Army was to deal with it."

But Keane gave no public warnings. In Newsweek's January 22 issue (on newsstands Monday, January 15), national security correspondent John Barry and Editor-at-Large Evan Thomas report on why, to date, the military has received little criticism for its actions in Iraq despite all of the recriminations over the situation there--and why some in the armed forces now feel that the top brass should share the blame.

"Everyone recognizes that we made mistakes," says Keane. "The harder part is what to learn from them."

Now, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus has been chosen to find a better way in Iraq. For the past 14 months, Petraeus has supervised the writing of the Army's new field manual on counterinsurgency warfare, FM 3-24. Petraeus is a resourceful, imaginative commander who has shown an ability to adapt to rude surprises, write Barry and Thomas. But he will need to be creative, and he may need to do what generals do not like to do: tell the president that he's wrong, that Iraq cannot be won by more force, that the time has come to pull back. Even Petraeus's own strategy may have been overrun byevents.

"It's ironic," says one of the drafters of the new counterinsurgency manual. "We've finished the counterinsurgency manual just as Iraq looks like it's heading for civil war. We don't have a doctrine for that."

Part of the problem, report Barry and Thomas, was the lack of such a counterinsurgency plan after the invasion. When Gen. George Casey arrived at Baghdad headquarters as the commander of U.S.-led coalition forces, he asked his staff to set up a meeting with the HQ's counterinsurgency team. "His request was met with silence," reports retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, a gulf-war veteran and author of an admired study of combat organization. (There was no such staff or counterinsurgency plan.)

Army planners were not oblivious to the risks of a long occupation after a successful, lightning invasion. The pre-war chief of Central Command, Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, says, "The thing that kept getting us was: if you go into Iraq you aregoing to inherit a broken society."

But his successor, Gen. Tommy Franks, concentrated almost entirely on the invasion--and essentially ignored postwar planning. Sens. John Warner and Carl Levin, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, respectivelym asked Franks why.

"He said hewas told to stay the hell out of it" by his civilian boss, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Levin recalls. (Franks denies this.)

Keane tells Newsweek that Franks believed that the postwar planning, known as Phase Four, was the responsibility of a different general, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the head of the tiny, understaffed Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (who in turn was soon replaced by a civilian, Ambassador Paul Bremer).

"Franks was dead wrong, and I don't believe he did this thing right, but he literally washed his hands of this Phase Four stuff," says Keane, speaking with unusual bluntness about a fellow officer. (Franks disagrees, pointing out that Garner served under him.)

In and around Baghdad, report Barry and Thomas, the Army's approach was"kinetic"; it would use firepower and brute force. Untrained incounterinsurgency, the commander of the Fourth Infantry Division, Lt. Gen.Ray Odierno, ordered his men to kick in doors and arrest any man who looked like an insurgent. Overflowing their cells at Abu Ghraib, the prisoners became targets of poorly trained, overwhelmed guards. The consequences toAmerica's image in Iraq--and in the Arab and Muslim worlds--were disastrous. (Odierno, who has recently gone back to Baghdad, insisted in an earlier interview with Newsweek that he had not been heavy-handed.)

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