Operation Iraqi Freedom: Military Objectives Met

Report Middle East

Operation Iraqi Freedom: Military Objectives Met

April 18, 2003 4 min read
Baker Spring
Baker Spring
Former Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
Baker is a former Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy

The falling statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad is an evocative image.  It signals that the U.S.-led military action against the Hussein regime has been a success.  This signal of success is backed by tangible evidence of a successful military operation in more substantive terms.  This evidence is found in a review of the mission objectives for Operation Iraqi Freedom as they relate to the responsibilities of the military in meeting these objectives.

At the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set eight mission objectives for the operation.   Accounting for the fact that military is not solely responsible for meeting these objectives, it is now clear that it has conducted a successful military campaign.  While civilian authorities still have significant tasks ahead of them to secure the mission objectives the military has made possible, it is now clear that the military has done its job and done it very well.

Eight Mission Objectives
At this point in time, it is appropriate to review each of the mission objectives and explain how the military has met its responsibilities and what steps are necessary by civilian authorities to secure the objectives.  The eight mission objectives for Operation Iraqi Freedom are:

  1. End the regime of Saddam Hussein.  This objective was the most immediate and important purpose of the military operation.  It is the one the U.S. military bore the lion's share of the responsibility for meeting.  There is no question that this objective has been met.  Saddam Hussein' regime no longer controls any significant portion of Iraqi territory.  Hussein himself is either dead or in hiding.  Only pockets of resistance remain.
  2. Eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.  The military's primary responsibility regarding this mission objective was to remove these weapons from the physical control of the Iraqi regime so that they could be located and ultimately destroyed.  This is an objective the military has met in the process of removing the regime from power.  While the military may assist in the process of eliminating these weapons and associated support systems and facilities, this is task that should quickly become the responsibility of the intelligence community and technical specialists.
  3. Capture or drive out terrorists.  From the outset of the conflict, the U.S. military has sought to destroy terrorist infrastructure in Iraq.  The preponderance of this infrastructure was found inside the Iraqi regime itself and was largely focused on terrorizing the Iraqi population.  Regarding terrorists elements outside the Hussein regime, the most visible military action was to destroy the Ansar al-Islam cell located near Iraq's border with Iran.
  4. Collect intelligence on terrorist networks. The military capture of key government ministries in Iraq should provide a treasure trove of intelligence regarding the Iraqi government's support for terrorists.  The military has apprehended key regime officials.  This will also allow U.S. intelligence officials to learn more about Iraqi's past support for terrorist activities, including any that may have been planned against the American people.
  5. Collect intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction activity.  As with the objective of collecting intelligence on terrorist networks, the U.S. military has secured documents from relevant Iraqi government ministries on its illicit weapons programs.  Likewise, it has in its custody a significant number of former Iraqi officials knowledgeable about its weapons program.  Chief among them are senior scientists Lt. Gen. Amir Saadi and Jaffar Dhai Jaffar.
  6. Secure Iraq's oil fields.  Coalition military forces secured Iraq's southern oil fields in the early hours of the war.  The U.S. stated on April 14th, that all of Iraq's major oil resources were under coalition control.  Damage to these energy resources during the course of the military campaign is reported to be quite limited.
  7. Deliver humanitarian relief and end sanctions.  Even while the war was still underway, U.S. and coalition military forces started to deliver humanitarian relief to Iraqi civilians.  This relief effort is expanding.  Sanctions on Iraq were imposed by the United Nations Security Council as a result of the Hussein regime's unwillingness to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and terrorist programs, account for individuals missing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and stop its repression of the Iraqi civilian population.  With the military action to remove the Hussein regime a success, a new interim Iraqi government, with U.S. and coalition assistance by civilian authorities, should quickly move to meet the requirements of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.  On this basis, U.N. sanctions against Iraq should come to an end.
  8. Help Iraq achieve representative self-government and insure its territorial integrity.  Representative government in Iraq was impossible as long as the Hussein regime remained in power there.  Removal of the regime by military action was the primary means for facilitating the transition to representative rule.  Ultimately, the responsibility for a more democratic government in Iraq is with the Iraqi people and beyond the scope of the responsibilities of U.S. and coalition military forces.  They have made their contribution to the fulfillment of this mission objective.  Further, coalition forces have fought the war in a way designed to discourage separatist movements within Iraq.  This is particularly the case regarding Kurdish elements in the north.  It has also successfully deter large scale incursions into Iraq by Iranian and Turkish forces.

Clearly, the scope of the mission objectives for Operation Iraqi Freedom extends well beyond what U.S. and coalition military forces can achieve.  As a result, it is now possible to determine that the military is completing its responsibilities for fulfilling the mission objectives. It is now time to start transferring responsibilities from the military to civilian authorities in Iraq.  As this transition moves forward, the military presence in Iraq may be reduced in a controlled manner.  As this transition takes place, the American people should rest assured that their military, along with those of its coalition partners, met all goals that were assigned to it under Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The question that arises now is whether civilian authorities from coalition governments and within Iraq will take advantage what the military has made possible and meet their portion of the responsibilities for completing the mission objectives for Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Baker Spring
Baker Spring

Former Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy

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