When President Obama announced in August 2010 the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, he complimented the soldiers who had served there for completing "every mission they were given." But some of military's most senior officers, in a little-noticed report this spring, rendered a harsher account of their work that highlights repeated missteps and failures over the past decade, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
There was a "failure to recognize, acknowledge and accurately define" the environment in which the conflicts occurred, leading to a "mismatch between forces, capabilities, missions, and goals," says the assessment from the Pentagon's Joint Staff. The efforts were marked by a "failure to adequately plan and resource strategic and operational" shifts from one phase of the conflicts to the next.
From the outset, U.S. forces were poorly prepared for peacekeeping and had not adequately planned for the unexpected. In the first half of the decade, "strategic leadership repeatedly failed," and as a result, U.S. military training, policies, doctrine and equipment were ill-suited to the tasks that troops actually faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.