Phase IV Operations

Where Wars are Really Won


Lieutenant Colonel Conrad C. Crane, U.S. Army, Retired, Ph.D.

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Portions of this article have been adapted from a monograph written for the Strategic Studies Institute by Conrad C. Crane and W. Andrew Terrill in 2003.1


Events in Iraq since March 2003 highlight the importance and complexity of operations during Phase IV of a campaign—activities conducted after decisive combat operations to stabilize and reconstruct the area of operations (AO). Phase IV is often described as postconflict operations, but that is a misleading term. Phase IV usually begins soon after the advent of combat during Phase III, and the two overlap. In addition, as in Iraq, significant fighting can still occur during Phase IV. A better descriptive term would be “transition operations,” because military forces try to position the AO to move back to peace and civilian government control.

In the past, U.S. commanders often conducted detailed planning for Phase IV while Phase III was ongoing, such as during World War II. But, with modern warfighting concepts like Rapid Decisive Operations and schemes of maneuver designed to speedily defeat adversaries, such an approach is no longer wise or feasible. Even the concept of having separate phases during a campaign might be worth rethinking because the construct can stovepipe planning and hamper the holistic vision necessary to properly link combat to the end state that accomplishes national political objectives.

Planning, as well as execution of Phase III and Phase IV must occur simultaneously, not sequentially, and we should also train that way. Too often training exercises ignore Phase IV operations or conveniently delay them until the conclusion of major combat operations. Real life is not that neat or simple.

When Lieutenant General John J. Yeosock took command of the U.S. Third Army during Operation Desert Storm, he could not get useful staff support to assess and plan for postconflict problems such as hospital beds, prisoners, and refugees. He later complained he was handed a “dripping bag of manure” no one else wanted to deal with.2 Neither the Army nor the Department of Defense (DOD) had an adequate plan for postwar operations to rebuild Kuwait, and civilian agencies were even more unprepared. Only through adept improvisations by Army engineers and civil affairs personnel and the dedicated efforts of Kuwaiti volunteers and the Saudi Arabian Government was the situation salvaged.3

The Third Army was the first U.S. field army in combat since the Korean War, which might account for some of the deficiencies in postwar planning during Operation Desert Storm. Historically, postconflict planning has been a function of headquarters at echelons above corps (EAC), and continuing problems with more recent operations are at least partly attributable to the generally small scale of U.S. interventions.

For at least the latter half of the 20th Century, U.S. military leaders and planners focused on winning wars, not on the peacekeeping or nationbuilding that came afterward. The unpleasant result of the Vietnam War magnified this shortcoming, as the services developed doctrines, force structures, and attitudes to fight major conventional war and to avoid another experience like Vietnam.4 But national objectives can often only be accomplished after the fighting ends; a war tactically and operationally won can still lead to a strategic defeat if transition operations are poorly planned or executed.

The ironic truth about Phase IV operations is that the U.S. military would rather not deal with them or would like to quickly hand them off to other U.S. Government agencies or international organizations, which, in turn, argue that nationbuilding tasks are rightfully within their sphere of responsibility. However, while there is universal agreement about who should ideally be rebuilding states, the harsh historical reality is that the world’s greatest nationbuilding institution, when properly resourced and motivated, is the U.S. military, especially the U.S. Army. American military forces would like to quickly win wars and go home, but the United States has rarely accomplished long-term policy goals after any conflict without an extended American military presence to ensure proper results from the peace.

U.S. Occupations

Since its formation, the Army has had a lot of experience with postconflict or transition operations. During the 19th century, the Army had such missions in Mexico, the post-Civil War South, and the American West. Generally, these experiences were extremely unpleasant and at the end of the century helped motivate military reformers focus on building a military establishment worthy of a great power and designed to win major conventional wars. Reformers agreed with the philosophy of influential Prussian general and theorist Count Helmuth von Moltke, the Elder, that the primary role of the modern military was to successfully conclude major combat operations (once diplomats had gotten the nation into war) and then quickly withdraw while the diplomats resolved the aftermath.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the United States has conducted generally successful efforts with reconstruction and nationbuilding in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Germany, Italy, Japan, Austria, South Korea, Panama, and Kuwait. Some successes came as a result of good planning, as during World War II; others came from adept scrambling, as after Operation Desert Storm. Notable failures occurred in Haiti, Nicaragua, Somalia, and Vietnam. Ongoing efforts continue in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Recent history provides a number of useful examples to illustrate the missions and challenges involved in postconflict or transition operations. This article examines recent smaller scale contingencies (SSCs) and insights from major wars.

Panama. Operations in Panama leading to the overthrow of General Manuel Noriega’s regime have been touted as a model use of quick, decisive U.S. military force, but postconflict activities did not go as smoothly. Combat operations were conducted superbly and quickly in a complex situation (with difficult terrain, many civilians, and restrained rules of engagement [ROE]) that required intricate joint planning and execution. The crisis period was exceptionally long, beginning with public revelations about Noriega’s nefarious activities during June 1987 and culminating with Operation Just Cause during December 1989. Planning for military intervention began as early as February 1988.5

After Noriega annulled the May 1989 election, sent paramilitary thugs to assault opposition candidates, and increased harassment of Americans, the United States conducted Operation Nimrod Dancer, which was a show of force by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to demonstrate U.S. resolve to convince Noriega to modify his behavior. When Noriega did not conform to expectations, President George H.W. Bush ordered the action called Operation Just Cause, which was a textbook example of the quality of the new U.S. Armed Forces and doctrine and encompassed simultaneous nighttime assaults of 27 targets.6

Because of a focus on conducting a decisive combat operation, not a complete campaign, the aftermath of this SSC did not go smoothly. Planning for the postconflict phase—Operation Promote Liberty—was far from complete when the short period of hostilities began. Missions and responsibilities were vague, and planners failed to adequately appreciate the effects of combat operations and regime change.7 Although guidance from SOUTHCOM on posthostility missions was fairly clear, tactically oriented planners at the XVIII Airborne Corps, in charge of the joint task force (JTF) carrying out the operation, gave postconflict tasks short shrift. The plan assigned a lone military police (MP) battalion to run a detention facility, protect all convoys, provide security for many key facilities, and prepare to restore law and order.8 Although the battalion was mainly concerned with a relatively small geographic portion of the country, it was quickly overwhelmed by its responsibilities.

With the elimination of the Panamanian Defense Force, the task of restoring law and order became quite demanding. Looting and vandalism spread throughout the country, and chaos reigned, which is a common occurrence in situations where national security forces are removed, leaving instability and a security vacuum in their wake. U.S. forces scrambled to restore some semblance of order, but the MPs, trained in law and order missions, did not perform well in unfamiliar combat operations and were numerically inadequate to deal with the problems they faced.9 The MPs also could not handle all the enemy prisoners of war (EPWs) and refugees for whom they were responsible. Similarly, there were not enough civil affairs personnel or engineers for the rebuilding effort, which seems to be a common occurrence in U.S. transition operations. Slow and disorganized U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) callups, relying on volunteers, exacerbated personnel deficiencies. Political-military interagency cooperation was also poor, many agencies were excluded from DOD planning, and the Embassy was severely understaffed.10

Senior commanders later admitted they had done poorly in planning postconflict operations and hoped the Army would remedy that situation in the future.11 Despite these deficiencies, the U.S. Military Support Group, activated in January 1990 to support the growth of independent Panamanian institutions, deactivated just a year later in a much more stable country, although whether it or Panamanian leaders deserved the credit for this success was unclear.12

Haiti. Like Panama, the operation in Haiti was another SSC in response to a long-festering crisis that had begun with the military overthrow of President Jean-Bertrande Aristide by Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras in September 1991. On 1 April 1993, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent the first alert order to the commander in chief, U.S. Atlantic Command (USACOM) (now U.S. Joint Forces Command) to begin planning for contingency operations in Haiti. Planning for active intervention intensified in October of that year after armed protesters in Port-Au-Prince turned away a ship loaded with UN peacekeepers.

During the next year, international pressure on the military leaders of Haiti increased and was intensified even further by obvious U.S. preparations for an invasion. In September 1994, the Haitian Government returned Aristide to power because it knew U.S. Army helicopters, 10th Mountain Division soldiers aboard the USS Eisenhower, and elements of the 82d Airborne Division were heading for Haiti.13 In fact, Cedras did not begin to negotiate seriously with the U.S. diplomatic delegation until he had confirmed that the 82d Airborne contingent was in the air. The overwhelming force deployed in the initial occupation and U.S. soldiers’ professional and disciplined conduct and appearance in continuing operations did much to deter and control the actions of potential troublemakers.14

Beginning occupations with a strong, pervasive ground presence to control and intimidate looters and deter potential resistance is always the best course of action, but this did not occur in Iraq in 2003. Even Ambassador J. Paul Bremer conceded that “[w]e never had enough troops on the ground” to adequately control the postwar environment.15

The long lead time between the beginning of the Haitian crisis and the actual military intervention, combined with lessons learned from operations like those in Panama and Somalia, greatly facilitated planning for Operation Uphold Democracy. USACOM prepared operational plans for both forced and unopposed entry, while DOD conducted extensive interagency coordination.16 DOD’s Haiti Planning Group, with the help of other government agencies, prepared a detailed interagency checklist for restoration of essential services.

The lead agency for all major functional areas was the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with DOD support (mostly from Army units). The agency was to—

  • Reestablish public administration.
  • Conduct elections.
  • Restore information services.
  • Help the Department of Justice set up and train a police force.
  • Prepare for and respond to disasters.
  • Run airports.
  • Care for refugees.

Military units had primary responsibility for—

  • Security measures, such as disposing of explosive ordnance.
  • Protecting foreign residents.
  • Demobilizing paramilitary groups.

These were mostly Army functions, and the Army provided 96 percent of deployed military forces.17

Military leaders’ desires to avoid getting involved with nationbuilding missions such as those that led to so much grief in Somalia affected these plans and their execution. Army lawyers wrestled with interpreting humanitarian requests for reconstruction and classified them as either mission-related or as nationbuilding. The lawyers approved requests that fell into the former category and denied those in the latter. Medical units focused on supporting the JTF, not on humanitarian assistance, because U.S. leaders did not want to replace the medical facilities of the host nation. This reluctance to embrace peacekeeping or nationbuilding had its most regrettable result on 20 September 1994 when restrictive ROE prohibited U.S. forces from intervening as Haitian police killed two demonstrators. The next day, U.S. officials expanded the ROE to allow more military involvement in restoring and maintaining law and order.18

Such mission creep should be expected; it has been part of virtually all U.S. involvement with complex Phase IV operations. A similar expansion of Army roles and missions occurred in almost all other restoration efforts in Haiti. The attorneys, rationalizing that any action that made Americans look good lessened security risks, began approving such efforts as mission-related. Other government agencies were slow to arrive or build up resources, so the military picked up the slack. Other departments had not done the detailed planning DOD had, often wanting more support than DOD had expected to provide.19

When the ambassador to Haiti asked for military advisers to help new government ministries get established until efforts from USAID and the Department of State could be established, a ministerial adviser team from the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade hastily deployed “the first large-scale implementation of a civil administration effort since World War II.”20 The scope and pace of civil affairs missions increased so rapidly they threatened to get out of control, raising fears such actions would only heighten Haitian expectations that U.S. forces could fix all the nation’s problems, thus setting the people up for great disappointment later.21

The expanded military missions caused many other problems, to some extent because civil affairs units are relatively small organically and require considerable support from other organizations. Engineer planning, equipment, and personnel were inadequate for their required civil affairs and reconstruction projects. Soldiers had to develop new policies and procedures to help set up internal security forces and expend funds, which often required working around U.S. Code, Title 10, restrictions.22 Soldiers assumed expanded roles in maintaining law and order, including manning and operating detention facilities and developing new crowd-control techniques. Items like latrines and police uniforms were in short supply. Doctrine and personnel were not available to establish proper liaison with the myriad civilian organizations working in the country. Intelligence assets were severely taxed, and the force in Haiti had to rely heavily on theater and national intelligence assets to make up for deficiencies.23

The military in general and the Army in particular received much praise for their performance in Haiti. Even so, once the last American troops left the island in April 1996, the situation there deteriorated to conditions approaching those that existed in the early 1990s. Without long-term military involvement, most U.S. policy goals were frustrated. The civilian agencies that replaced military forces did not have the same resources available, and the Haitian economy, judicial system, and political leaders obstructed reform.

U.S. officials decried the results of subsequent elections and admitted the failure of their policies. Even UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended against renewing the mission there.24 One key lesson from the frustrating experience in Haiti is that the United States should predicate redeployment of its military forces on the achievement of designated measures of effectiveness (MOEs) and not on time limits. Another is that follow-on civilian agencies must be capable of maintaining those accomplishments as well as achieving new ones.

The Balkans. The U.S. Army has picked up its usual heavy load of postconflict tasks that require several thousand troops to remain in Bosnia and Kosovo, and it looks as if doing so will be a long-term commitment.25 Current U.S. operations in the Balkans reveal how force and mission requirements change during the transition phase. Eighteen months after the agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav Army in regard to Kosovo, U.S. Army troops were still engaged in “peacekeeping with an iron fist” to establish a safe, secure environment under the rule of law, with patrols backed by armored vehicles and detention centers to control trouble-makers. The UN-NATO justice system has been heavily criticized, and a Judge Advocate General Legal Assessment Team found the UN mission in Kosovo so severely short of facilities and personnel it recommended that teams of 15 Army lawyers rotate through the country to reinforce the UN effort. Impatient Kosovars resent that the UN seems to be making little progress toward a transition to local control.26

With efforts in Bosnia more advanced and the environment more secure and peaceful, U.S. Army task forces have become lighter and have moved from providing security to enhancing long-term stability. By late 1997, the Stabilization Force (SFOR) realized a disparity existed between the military force’s ability to complete its General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP) tasks and its less-capable civilian counterparts’ ability to implement them. SFOR realized it could not disengage with such a large GFAP gap remaining and expanded its mission to help international organizations set the conditions for civilian implementation of the GFAP to help transition the area of operations to a stable environment. U.S. military leaders on the scene recognized they were moving into the area of nationbuilding but saw no alternative if SFOR was ever going to be able to withdraw or significantly reduce its commitment without risking the peace.27

As the nature of stability operations and support operations in Bosnia evolved, so did the peacekeeping force’s requirements. The force needed fewer combat troops and more engineers, military police, and civil affairs personnel. Intelligence requirements changed and expanded, and after-action reports (AAR) highlighted many shortfalls in the Balkans’ force structure and peacekeeping policies, many of them common to previous SSCs. Army lawyers again proved adept at “thinking outside traditional fiscal rules and applications” to support operational requirements.28 The roles of MPs expanded to include performing as maneuver battalion task forces and working with international law-enforcement agencies, but difficulties with tactical MPs trying to perform law and order missions reappeared.29

Problems also reappeared with shortages and recall procedures for Reserve Component (RC) engineer, military intelligence (MI), and civil affairs augmentation.30 The massive engineering requirements for Operations Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard highlighted branch deficiencies with command and control, construction unit allocations, and bridging.31 A split-based logistics system trying to meet requirements in the Balkans and the Central Region of Europe required considerable augmentation, but still strained combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) assets considerably.32

Liaison officers were in great demand to be Entity Armed Forces Joint Commission observers and to coordinate with the myriad nongovernment organizations and civilian agencies.33 Shortages of linguists existed throughout the theater, exacerbating problems with intelligence. MI doctrine was inadequate to support peace operations. Understaffed MI units had to adapt as best they could to a complex multiservice, multiagency, and multinational situation complicated by a host of treaty requirements.34 A Defense Science Board study concluded that Balkan operations revealed many shortcomings in psychological operations as well, especially in planning and resourcing to support all the geographic combatant commanders’ engagement and postcon-flict activities.35

Even with all these problems, Army units in Bosnia have continued to compile a superlative record of accomplishments. Nonetheless, the GFAP gap remains, with recurring UN problems in coordinating and directing civilian agencies. Recent elections were dominated by continuing political divisiveness, which demonstrated the limited progress made in changing people’s attitudes.36 However, while American military leaders might complain about the troops remaining in the Balkans, the fact that decisions about their redeployment have been based on achieving MOEs and not on adhering to time limits has at least insured stability in the region.

The Philippines. In the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the United States began a long occupation of the Philippine Islands that officially ended with their independence in 1946. This quite lengthy transition to self-government is not typical of U.S. experiences with occupation, and the most useful insights are to be gleaned from studying the early years when U.S. forces tried to subdue resistance and establish control.

The Army’s Philippines experience reinforces that “postconflict operations” is a misnomer. To be successful, such actions must begin before the shooting stops and be conducted simultaneously with combat. Planning must be complete before the conflict begins, so military forces can immediately begin accomplishing transition tasks in newly controlled areas. All soldiers must accept duties that are typically considered in the purview of civil affairs detachments. There will never be enough civil affairs troops to go around, and whoever is on the scene must meet immediate needs. Even in the midst of combat, leaders and their soldiers must keep in mind the long-term goals of peace and stability and conduct themselves accordingly.37

In the Philippines, military and civilian officials recognized that the military leader on the scene was the best agent for local pacification. A situation where village attitudes and characteristics varied widely required considerable decentralization. Officers had great discretion and were not closely supervised, although they also had clear directives from higher headquarters.

The requirement for local familiarity meant the Army could not rotate soldiers quickly. Personal relationships are important in village societies and take considerable time and effort to establish. Even 1-year tours in a tribal society like Iraq are probably too short. In the Philippines, the Army had to accept some decline in unit combat efficiency to keep units in lengthy occupation duties. Troops had to be aware of the cultures they were in and not try to force U.S. values. Knowledge of the Koran and local customs were important for everyone. Even John J. Pershing, a captain at the time, could spend hours talking to local imams about religion. Being aware of how important personal relationships are does not lessen the requirement to achieve the right balance of force and restraint, but troops must consider long-term consequences for every action. General Leonard Wood’s predilection for punitive forays in response to even minor incidents like theft cowed many Moro chiefs, but by doing so he also undermined many alliances and relationships local commanders had painstakingly established. Instead of quieting small disturbances, Wood’s expeditions often created larger problems by driving pacified or neutral villagers into joining more rebellious ones, making it more difficult for his subordinates to gain local trust.38

Germany. The United States has occupied Germany twice in the past century. When World War I concluded, over 200,000 U.S. troops moved to positions around Coblenz and prepared for the possibility that the Germans would not sign the Versailles Peace Treaty. When the Germans agreed to sign in 1919, the occupation force rapidly diminished. By the end of 1922 only 1,200 U.S. troops remained.39 Although the bulk of responsibility for the occupation and regime change fell on other Allied governments, U.S. troops did find themselves in charge of 1 million civilians. The U.S. Army and Government had not really accepted the administration of civil government in occupied enemy territory as a legitimate military function after the Mexican War, Civil War, or Spanish-American War, and the civil affairs officer for the U.S. military government in the Rhineland lamented that the U.S. Army of Occupation “lacked both training and organization” to perform its duties.40

As World War II approached, U.S. Army War College committees went back to World War I reports and developed formal doctrine for military government. During spring 1942, a School of Military Government was established at the University of Virginia, and thinking began there about postwar reconstruction of Germany, Japan, and Italy.41

By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, detailed Allied planning for the occupation of that nation had been ongoing for 2 years. All staff sections at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces, and Army Group headquarters invested considerable resources in developing what became Operation Eclipse. The plan correctly predicted most of the tasks required of the units occupying the defeated country. Within 3 months, those formations had disarmed and demobilized German armed forces; cared for and repatriated 4 million EPWs and refugees; restored basic services to many devastated cities; discovered and quashed a potential revolt; created working local governments; and reestablished police and the courts.42

Before any Allied armies entered Germany, planners designated military governance units to closely follow combat forces. The first civil affairs detachment set itself up in Roetgen, Germany, on 15 September 1944, only 4 days after U.S. troops entered Germany. Once the Third Reich surrendered, small mobile detachments went immediately to every town in the U.S. occupation zone. Typically, unit commanders confronted mayors with a number of demands (a list of local soldiers and party members; the turn-in of all military and civilian firearms; and housing for U.S. troops). Detachment leaders also imposed curfews and immobilized the population and had the authority to replace uncooperative mayors.43

The regime in Germany was changed from the bottom up. Throughout history, this has been the best approach to rebuilding states. Local elections and councils were allowed to function, and responsibility was shifted to local authorities as quickly as possible. State governments were next, and only after they were working effectively were national elections considered. Political life was strictly controlled to prevent any resurgence of radicalism, although public opinion polls were conducted on an almost weekly basis to monitor what the German people thought about occupation policies. Also, the German legal profession had been totally corrupted by the Nazis, and each occupying ally took a slightly different approach in reestablishing courts. The British used a lot of previous Nazi lawyers and judges, while the Americans tried to reform the whole system—a slow process. The best solution was probably that of the Soviets’; they found educated, politically loyal people and gave them 6 weeks of legal training. These lay judges got criminal and civil court systems working quickly.44

One of the most vexing problems for occupation authorities was how to dismantle the Nazi Party and its security apparatus while retaining the skills of some of its members who performed important functions. The solution was to have adult Germans fill out detailed questionnaires about their associations. Heavy penalties were imposed on anyone who lied or failed to answer questions. A board of anti-Nazi Germans and Allied representatives reviewed the fragebogen (questionnaire) to determine who had held leadership positions and should have their political and economic activities curtailed for the occupation. By the time such people regained their rights, democratic Germans were so solidly established that a Nazi revival was impossible.45 This approach also allowed occupation authorities to clear key administrators and technicians, along with some security forces, so they could remain at their posts to help with reconstruction. Most commentators agree that the most critical mistake made during the initial occupation of Iraq was the total disbanding of the Iraqi Army and the extensive purging of Ba’athists without attempting discriminatory screening.46

Japan. In 1945, the occupation force for Japan, a country slightly smaller than Iraq, included almost 23 divisions amounting to more than 500,000 soldiers. Because of uncertainty about how occupation forces would be received, General Douglas MacArthur decided overwhelming force was the best insurance against unrest. Most ground forces were American, although allies, such as British and Australian units in Hiroshima, were used in some sensitive areas.47

While interdepartmental deliberations in Washington, D.C., about occupying Japan had been going on since the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the actual planning in the Pacific for Operation Blacklist did not begin until May 1945.48 Within 2 years, most Japanese soldiers were disarmed and repatriated (except those from Soviet-controlled areas); a purge list of persons restricted from political activity was completed; basic services were restored; police reform programs were implemented; the economy was restarted; land reform had begun; and the nation had adopted a new democratic constitution renouncing war as an instrument of national policy.49

In October 2002, reports emerged that President George W. Bush’s administration was looking at the Japanese occupation as a model for achieving democratization and demilitarization in Iraq, but the administration quickly withdrew from that position. Many experts have highlighted the important differences between the scenarios. The Japanese surrendered unconditionally after total defeat, and the whole world acknowledged the legality and necessity of Allied occupation. Millions were dead, cities were in ashes, and the populace was destitute and cowed. Their more homogeneous culture did not feature the ethnic, tribal, and religious divisions so evident in Iraq, and the Japanese were conditioned to obey the emperor’s command to accept defeat and submit to their conquerors. They also had some experience with limited democracy, although it can be argued that Iraq had some similar experiences earlier this past century. Another major difference is that Iraq is much richer in natural resources than Japan, which provides another set of opportunities for occupying powers.50

However, Operation Blacklist provides useful insight about purging undesirable political elements and on how to design the insertion of military forces into a situation where the possibility of armed resistance remains ambiguous. Similarities also exist between the way Americans viewed the Japanese in 1945 and the way many perceive Iraqis today—as a totally foreign and non-Western culture.

John Dower, the renowned historian of the occupation of Japan, strongly agrees that Japan does not provide a useful model for Iraq. His important caveat is that current policymakers should heed the clear warning that “even under circumstances that turned out to be favorable, demilitarization and democratization were awesome challenges.”51

Additional Observations

Other insights should also be emphasized. For example, detailed long-term interagency planning for occupation is important and can considerably smooth transition. MacArthur’s staff managed to develop Operation Blacklist in just over 3 months, but analysis for such a course had been going on for years. He devoted considerable staff assets to creating the plan, and the operation required little interagency coordination. Also, the Far East Command staff made many adjustments on the fly during the early years of occupation.

The ideal approach to occupation is exemplified by interagency planning for operations in Haiti that produced a detailed list of postcrisis tasks and responsibilities well in advance of any possible combat. That operation eventually failed, however, because civilian agencies proved incapable of completing the mission once military forces left because of inadequate resources or inflated expectations.

The primary problem at the core of U.S. deficiencies in postconflict capabilities, resources, and commitment is a national aversion to nationbuilding, reinforced by the U.S. failure in Vietnam. U.S. leaders must accept the nationbuilding mission as an essential part of national security, and they must better tailor and fund military services and civilian governmental organizations to accomplish the mission.


In the past, no part of Phase IV has been more problematic for U.S. military forces than handover to civilian agencies. Ideally, the allocation of effort and shift of responsibilities should proceed as depicted in figure 1, but in reality, it normally looks more like figure 2, where the handover is directly to the local government.52

A number of possible structural solutions are available to the Army to improve its performance in Phase IV operations. These range from internal reorganizations to relying more on civilian agencies.

Forming specialized peacekeeping units. Some commentators have recommended that the Army establish constabulary units focused exclusively on peacekeeping duties. While this has certain training and organizational efficiencies, it is a bad idea for a number of reasons. At the beginning of Phase IV, strong warfighting skills are essential, and no progress is possible without peace and security. The conventional deterrent value of today’s relatively small Army will be significantly reduced if some units are perceived as having a more limited capability for offensive or defensive operations, unless these constabulary units are an addition to the existing force structure. They will also be of only marginal use in meeting the requirements of the current national military strategy with acceptable risk.

Whether created as new organizations or as modifications of existing ones, specialized units would probably be inadequate to meet the number of future demands for their skills. Center for Army Analysis projections, based on data from the 1990s, predict the United States will face 25 to 30 ongoing SSCs every month, and that does not include the increased operational tempo resulting from the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).53 One alternative to this approach would be to structure USAR and Army National Guard (ARNG) units to perform transition phase functions. After Active Component (AC) combat units have had time to provide a secure environment, deploying specialized USAR and ARNG forces might be appropriate. Such units’ performance in the Balkans has drawn rave reviews from many civilian administrators who like the different attitudes those units bring to Phase IV operations. To prevent excessive deployments, however, there need to be many of these units. The same attitudes that please civilian observers will draw the Army even more into nationbuilding tasks.


Creating multipurpose units. Creating more multipurpose units makes good sense, given the realities the Army faces. Army Transformation initiatives are relevant for this solution. The new medium brigades will retain some armored punch with more infantry. They will gain augmented intelligence capabilities and be more mobile and versatile. The Army should also invest in multipurpose technologies, such as platforms equally suitable for mounting lethal weaponry for combat or carrying relief supplies for humanitarian missions. This solution will require more than just new organizations or technology, however. There will have to be a recognition and acceptance throughout the Army of the likelihood and importance of Phase IV operations and the realization that these missions require a different mindset and training than decisive combat operations. Army schools at all levels will have to prepare soldiers to better meet this challenge, and units would have to adjust mission essential task lists accordingly.

Increase the AC’s CS and CSS force structure. A common theme found in AARs, and from observations of civilian administrators and from exercise analyses is that the Army has serious shortfalls in providing the required CS and CSS for Phase IV. Some of these shortfalls are the result of having USAR theater-level elements as a late follow-on in normal force flows in war plans, as is the case with some engineer organizations. Some deficiencies are the result of elements almost exclusively in the USAR having become overextended by unaccustomed, recurring deployments. In other cases, the force does not exist anywhere, sometimes because of a lack of reliable historical experience or planning data to determine requirements, as in MP asset shortfalls for internment and resettlement of EPWs and refugees. The complicated multinational and multiagency environment of Phase IV has also created a host of new requirements not foreseen by planners used to combat operations.

Training and equipping CS and CSS units to be more versatile would overcome some deficiencies, but most fixes to this problem are not that easy. To effectively increase its CS and CSS personnel and assets available, the Army would have to invest in force structure and provide more AC assets for theater or EAC tasks. The DOD Fiscal Years 2000-2005 Defense Planning Guidance Reserve Component Employment Study 2005 determined that to be able to conduct contingencies for 60 days without RC augmentation the Army needed 230 new CS and CSS units.54 The list, which covers many of the shortages recent AARs have revealed, would be a good place to start to determine expanded requirements. Ongoing GWOT operations reveal even more CS and CSS needs.

Strengthen civilian agencies. Although strengthening civilian agencies is not something the Army can do directly, it is often a solution presented by those who believe the services should not be involved in nationbuilding and by departmental secretaries and officials advocating the roles of their organizations. The United States should adopt this solution in some form anyway, and the military should support it, although this might threaten to lead to reductions in the DOD budget. But nothing in Phase IV can be accomplished without establishing a secure environment on the ground that only military forces, primarily the Army, can maintain.

In any Phase IV, the lack of a quick-response capability by civilian agencies, as well as problems coordinating them, will ensure that the military will bear the brunt of all essential tasks in rebuilding and reorganizing a failed or wartorn state for a long time. For instance, a representative from the Department of Justice specializing in setting up police forces has said that even with proper funding and commitment, it takes at least 9 months to have a viable force; recent experiences show this to be an optimistic estimate.55 The implication for the Army is that no foreseeable future reduction is likely in the nationbuilding or nation-assistance roles Phase IV operations demand from it. Contracting services to civilian companies might relieve some of this burden, but these activities have come under fire from the General Accounting Office for their costliness and inefficiency and suffer from the same limitations as other civilian agency operations.56

Recently, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David Chu said that to prevent future wars, the U.S. military is in the nationbuilding business to stay, and its leaders need to accept the fact that soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines so engaged believe it is an important mission.57 Anecdotes from the field support his assertion. Soldiers interviewed in Kosovo emphatically expressed their support for nationbuilding. One said, “With every plate of glass we replace in a window; with every door we install, we’re helping these people get back on their feet.”58 He also described the importance of tending to a child’s broken arm and giving a mother blankets to keep her children warm, concluding that “[w]ith every town that we help, we’re helping the nation get stronger.” The Bush Administration initially expressed resistance to employing the U.S. Army in nationbuilding, but recent history demonstrates it will occur anyway. Being prepared to conduct such operations will avoid a sense of mission creep when they inevitably have to be performed.

Former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammer-skold once said, “Peacekeeping is not a job for soldiers, but only a soldier can do it.”59 The same might be true for nationbuilding, especially during the earliest stages of Phase IV before a safe, secure environment has been established and civilian agencies have been able to build up their resources. Accepting nationbuilding or increased nation assistance as a mission has major implications for military involvement in Phase IV operations, but it would also bring service attitudes, doctrine, force structure, and training into line with the reality of what is happening in the field. Undoubtedly, congressional action will be needed to carefully alter legal and fiscal constraints about such military activities.

The Army is developing a set of leaders with experience in Haiti, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They understand the importance of Phase IV operations in accomplishing national policy objectives. Ground forces will almost always be responsible for most military missions in these situations. The U.S. Army has been organized and trained primarily to fight and win the Nation’s major wars, but it must also prepare for victory in peace.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or any other government office or agency.




  1. LTC Conrad C. Crane and W. Andrew Terrill, Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for the Military Forces in Postconflict Scenarios (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College [AWC] Strategic Studies Institute [SSI], 2003).
  2. LTG John J. Yeosock, quoted in “What We Should Have Done Differently,” In the Wake of the Storm: Gulf War Commanders Discuss Desert Storm, Part II, ed., Steven Weingartner (Wheaton, IL: Cantigny First Division Foundation, 2000), 25.
  3. Ibid., 29; Janet A. McDonnell, After Desert Storm: The U.S. Army and the Reconstruction of Kuwait (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Army, 1999).
  4. Crane, Avoiding Vietnam: The U.S. Army’s Response to Defeat in Southeast Asia (Carlisle, PA: AWC SSI, 2002).
  5. LTC John T. Fishel, The Fog of Peace: Planning and Executing the Restoration of Panama (Carlisle, PA: AWC SSI, April 1992), 7.
  6. Thomas Donnelly, Margaret Roth, and Caleb Baker, Operation Just Cause: The Storming of Panama (New York: Lexington Books, 1991).
  7. Fishel, 29-63.
  8. AWC, U.S. War Plans Special Text-2001 (Carlisle, PA: AWC SSI, November 2000), 233-306.
  9. Fishel and MAJ Richard Downie, “Taking Responsibility for Our Actions? Establishing Order and Stability in Panama,” Military Review (April 1992): 66, 69-70; 70-75: LTG Carmen Cavezza, “Joint Task Force South in Operation Just Cause,” interview by Larry Yates, Robert Wright, and Joe Huddleston, Fort Lewis, Washington, 30 April 1992, on-line at, accessed 21 March 2005.
  10. Cavezza interview; Fishel, 38, 58-59.
  11. Cavezza interview. Cavezza expressed doubt, however, that he could have trained his unit adequately for the mission-essential tasks required for war and for the complexities of the postconflict operations he faced.
  12. Fishel, 63.
  13. Commanders in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command (USACOM) CD-ROM,Operation Uphold Democracy: US Forces in Haiti,” Norfolk, Virginia, 1997, executive level After-Action Report (AAR) 1-13.
  14. USACOM CD-ROM, Joint Universal Lessons Learned System (JULLS) entries 10451-37950 and 10754-92362, Norfolk, Virginia.
  15. Cable News Network (CNN), “Bremer: More troops were needed after Saddam’s ouster,” 5 October 2004, on-line at, accessed 21 March 2005.
  16. David Bentley and Robert Oakley, “Peace Operations: A Comparison of Somalia and Haiti,” National Defense University Strategic Forum 30 May 1995, on-line at, accessed 21 March 2005; USACOM CD-ROM, AAR, 2-9.
  17. Haiti Planning Group, “Draft Interagency Checklist for Restoration of Essential Services,” courtesy of COL Mike Fitzgerald, U.S. Central Command J5; U.S. Army Program Analysis and Evaluation Directorate, America’s Army . . . into the 21st Century (Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 1997), 5.
  18. USACOM CD-ROM, LTC Karl Warner, interview by COL Dennis Mroczkowski, Joint Task Force (JTF)-190, Operation Uphold Democracy AAR, 266-67; USACOM CD-ROM, COL Gerald Palmer, interview by MAJ Christopher Clark, JTF-190 AAR, 269; USACOM CD-ROM, Chronology, Operation Uphold Democracy.
  19. The expansion of missions is evident from the Operation Uphold Democracy Logistics Support Operations briefing from the USACOM CD-ROM; Warner interview, 267; JULLS entry 10829-67459.
  20. USACOM CD-ROM, Memorandum to Commander, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command from 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, SUBJECT: After Action Report, Operation Uphold/Maintain Democracy, 26 May 1995, 3.
  21. JULLS entry 11566-55234.
  22. U.S. Code, Title 10, “The Armed Forces,” on-line at, accessed 14 April 2005.
  23. JULLS entries 00676-58398, 00969-70100, 01040-06216, 02656-20553, 10355-63106, 10447-74360, 10758-27517, 11558-362234, 11640-05029, 11640-61460, 50257-20594, 50258-39326, 92638-89373.
  24. U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO)-01-24, Foreign Assistance: Any Further Aid to Haitian Justice System Should be Linked to Performance-Related Conditions (Washington, DC: GAO, October 2000); “Haiti is Nightmare for U.S.,” Charleston Post and Courier, 5 October 2000; “Haiti’s Disappearing Democracy,” New York Times, 28 November 2000; Ben Barber, “U.S. Officials See Failed Haiti Policy,” Washington Times, 29 November 2000; “Annan Urges End to U.N. Mission in Haiti,” New York Times, 29 November 2000.
  25. “Army Has Begun Reviewing Options for Long-Term Balkan Presence,” Inside the Pentagon, 26 October 2000; Steven Lee Myers, “Army Will Give National Guard The Entire U.S. Role In Bosnia,” New York Times, 5 December 2000.
  26. Gregory Piatt, “A Good Bit Of Progress . . . A Long Way To Go,” European Stars and Stripes, 17 September 2000, 2; “UN-NATO Court Setup In Kosovo Faulted,” New York Times, 20 October 2000; Donald G. McNeil, Jr., New York Times, 22 November 2000; Emily Kelly, “Peacekeeping With An Iron Fist,” Stars and Stripes Omnimedia, 29 November 2000; MG Donald Campbell, Memorandum for Record, SUBJECT: Trip Report for Reserve Component (RC) Judge Advocate General Legal Assessment Team for Kosovo deployed between 26 May and 5 June 2000, 9 June 2000 (courtesy of LTC Peter Menk); Yaroslav Trofimov, “UN’s Long Stay and Power in Kosovo Stir Resentment,” Wall Street Journal, 3 January 2003, 1.
  27. Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe, “After Action Report: Operation Joint Guard,” November 1998, 3-2, 3-21 to 3-23.
  28. Ibid., 9-26.
  29. Ibid., 9-36; Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe, “Operation Joint Endeavor: After Action Report,” May 1997, 235.
  30. Operation Joint Guard, 4-5, 5-18. Problems were so acute that the AAR asked the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) and the U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG) to realign their units and specialties for peacekeeping missions.
  31. COL David A. Kingston, Towards a More Relevant Engineer Command (Carlisle Barracks, PA: AWC, 2000); Operation Joint Endeavor, 206, 210.
  32. Operation Joint Endeavor, 130-31.
  33. Center for Army Lessons Learned, “Joint Military Commissions: Lessons Learned From Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR,” May 1996. The large requirement for military liaison with the myriad agencies involved in such contingencies was a key point of discussion at the Postconflict Strategic Requirements Workshop the Center for Strategic Leadership conducted at the AWC from 28 to 30 November 2000.
  34. Operation Joint Endeavor, 78-94; LTC Melissa E. Patrick, Intelligence in Support Operations: The Story of Task Force Eagle and Operation Joint Endeavor (Carlisle, PA: AWC, 2000).
  35. “Outdated Equipment, Organizational Issues Hamper Effective PSYOPS,” Inside the Pentagon, 28 September 2000, 1.
  36. ADM Leighton W. Smith, “NATO’s IFOR in Action: Lessons from the Bosnian Peace Support Operations,” National Defense University Strategic Forum 154, January 1999, on-line at, accessed 21 March 2005; R. Jeffrey Smith, “Ethnic Hatred Permeates Bosnia’s Bitter Peace,” Washington Post, 10 November 2000, 30; Paul Watson, “Bosnian Vote Seen As A Setback,” Los Angeles Times, 14 November 2000, 9. For a good summary of the lack of long-term progress in the Balkans, see Kimberly Marten, Enforcing the Peace: Learning from the Imperial Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).
  37. Information on the Philippines was developed with Brian Linn, Texas A&M University, who is the author of The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989) and The Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000).
  38. Linn discussions; Jack C. Lane, Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood (San Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1978), 124-25.
  39. Edward M. Coffman, The War to End All Wars: The U.S. Military Experience in World War I (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986), 359-60.
  40. Earl F. Ziemke, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany, 1944-1946 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1975), 3.
  41. Ibid., 6-8.
  42. MAJ Kenneth O. McCreedy, Planning the Peace: Operation Eclipse and the Occupation of Germany (Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies, 1995).
  43. LTC Wally Z. Walters, The Doctrinal Challenge of Winning the Peace Against Rogue States: How Lessons From Post-World War II Germany May Inform Operations Against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (Carlisle, PA: AWC, 2002), 18.
  44. James Corum, School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, provided the ideas in this paragraph.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Michael R. Gordon, “Debate Lingering on Decision to Dissolve the Iraqi Military,” New York Times, 21 October 2004.
  47. John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), 73; Charles A. Willoughby, ed., Reports of General MacArthur, Volume 1 Supplement, MacArthur in Japan: The Occupation: Military Phase (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, 1966), 2, 16.
  48. Dower, “Lessons From Japan About War’s Aftermath,” New York Times, 27 October 2002; Willoughby, 2. Although the overall planning time for Operation Blacklist appears relatively short compared to Operation Eclipse, MacArthur made optimum use of the time available by devoting extensive staff assets to producing the plan.
  49. For more complete descriptions of these reforms, see Dower, Embracing Defeat, and Willoughby.
  50. Dower, “Lessons”; Chalmers Johnson, “Rebuilding Iraq: Japan is No Model,” Los Angeles Times, 17 October 2002; James P. Pinkerton, “Iraq is No Stage for MacArthur-Japan Sequel,” Long Island Newsday, 15 October 2002; Trudy Rubin, “Pre-Occupation Blues,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 October 2002.
  51. Dower, “Lessons.”
  52. Steven Metz, AWC SSI, developed this depiction, which first appeared in Conrad Crane, Landpower and Crises: Army Roles and Missions in Smaller-Scale Contingencies During the 1990s (Carlisle, PA: AWC SSI, January 2001), 34.
  53. Center for Army Analysis, “Stochastic Analysis of Resources for Deployments and Excursions: A Historical Perspective,” December 2000.
  54. Reserve Component Employment Study Group, Reserve Component Employment Study 2005 (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 1999), 1, 12-13, Annex E. The study group recommended against these changes mainly because of the cost of developing a new force structure and because giving the Active Component this capacity to conduct small-scale contingency (SSC) operations independent of the Reserve Component (RC) would take away the Army’s “political check and balance” preventing the executive branch from committing substantial troops to an SSC without a debate in Congress on mobilization. The latter rationale seems a questionable usurping of the president’s prerogative and could result in limiting Army utility and increasing response time. The policy has also contributed the strains on the RC mentioned in this study and has not produced much Congressional discussion about the large numbers of USAR and ARNG troops deployed to the Balkans. It can therefore be criticized for its effectiveness as well as its constitutionality.
  55. It took almost 1-1/2 years for UN Civilian Police and Italian Carabinieri to relieve U.S. troops of some of their law-enforcement duties in Kosovo. Bosnia has a working indigenous force, but six UN policemen, frustrated with its corruption, resigned after “exceeding their authority” and acting on their own to liberate women forced into prostitution. Gregory Piatt, “KFOR Soldiers’ Roles Changing In Kososvo,” European Stars and Stripes, 27 November 2000, 3; Colum Lynch, “Six UN Officers In Bosnia Resign After Unauthorized Raid,” Washington Post, 30 November 2000, 20. A GAO study examining the lack of progress in reforming the Bosnian law-enforcement and judicial systems concluded that “Senior Bosnian officials have not demonstrated the will to address the problem of crime and corruption and work toward a society based on the rule of law.” GAO, Bosnia Peace Operations: Crime and Corruption Threaten Successful Implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement, GAO/NSIAD-00-156, July 2000.
  56. GAO, Contingency Operations: Army Should Do More to Control Contract Cost in the Balkans, GAO/NSIAD-00-225, September 2000.
  57. Dale Eisman, “Top Defense Official Defends US Military’s Role As Peacekeeper,” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 15 November 2000.
  58. Emily Kelley, “GIs Reluctant To Leave Kosovo Town,” Stars and Stripes Omnimedia, 28 November 2000.
  59. Dag Hammerskold, quoted in FM 100-23, Peace Operations (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, December 1994), 1.


Lieutenant Colonel Conrad C. Crane, U.S. Army, Retired, is Director, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He received a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army War College (AWC), and has held the Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research at the AWC’s Strategic Studies Institute. He has served in various command and staff positions in the continental United States.


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May - June 2005