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Joint Ops Key to Military Lessons Learned from Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2003 – The maturation of the joint force concept was at the heart of the successes American arms achieved during Operation Iraqi Freedom, former command leader Army Gen. Tommy Franks said today before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Even with those successes, the general said, the environment in the region remains "challenging and volatile."

Franks gave the senators examples of the maturing of joint force operations. "Some capabilities we saw reach a new level of performance," he said.

The lessons that the command learned from operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan contributed to the joint culture of the various headquarters in the area. "(Those operations) also helped to improve our interoperability and our command, control, communications, computer and intelligence networking," Franks said.

U.S. forces were also able to integrate conventional and special operations forces with civilian resources to a much greater degree than in the past, Franks said. "We saw for the first time integration of forces rather than the 'deconfliction' of forces," he said. By this he means the various units were able to work together rather than assigning service specific units to exclusive operations zones. He called this idea the most "transformational" concept.

All types of forces demonstrated these capabilities. "Seems to me this integration of the conventional ... to leverage with special operations with asymmetric terrorist type threats enabled precision targeting simultaneously in the same battlespace," Franks said.

Conversely, operations in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated special operations forces capabilities to use conventional forces to set conditions. "Operational fires have been used to spearhead ground maneuver and our forces have been able to sustain the momentum of the offensive while defeating enemy formations in all kinds of terrain - open, desert, complex and urban terrain," he said.

Franks also identified areas that need more work. He said the U.S. military must work to prevent friendly fire incidents. "Fratricide prevention suffered from a lack of standardized combat identification," he said.

Deployment planning and execution was cumbersome, the general said, "and much more akin to those required during the Cold War than those required by our country for force projection in the 21st century."

Coalition information sharing needs to be improved at all levels, he added. Finally, human intelligence must be improved and more bandwidth is required for communications.

Coalition forces are involved in stability operations in Iraq, but the use of the term "does not infer that combat operations have ended," Franks said. "Our forces are engaged in offensive work ... all over Iraq today."

Franks said that as conditions change in Iraq the number and composition of coalition forces in the country will change. He said people must understand that as this computation is made "that the enemy we see there also has a vote."

Factors that will influence U.S. forces in the country include other nations' contributions to the mix, the effectiveness of the Iraqi police and how the new Iraqi army works.

The creation of a new Iraqi army is also moving forward. "The plan envisions three divisions located near Mosul, Baghdad and Basra," he said. "They will provide for territorial defense and they will conduct stability operations. Our goal is to field about nine battalions."

In the past two years, Central Command has been on the "leading edge" in the war against terrorism. "Much dangerous work remains to be done, but millions of Iraqis have freedoms today that four months ago were only a dream," Franks.

"Securing U.S. interests in the future and ensuring regional security stability will continue to involve risks in this region and will continue to require the commitment of our resources," Franks said.

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