POST-SADDAM IRAQ: THE WAR GAME
"Desert Crossing" 1999 Assumed 400,000 Troops and Still a Mess
Washington, DC, November 4, 2006 - A series of war games held in 1999
specifically to anticipate problems following an invasion of Iraq
assumed a deployment of 400,000 troops to maintain order, seal borders
and provide for other security needs. But the games, known as Desert
Crossing, were apparently ignored by the Defense Department. When
CENTCOM commander Gen. Anthony Zinni, after his retirement, advised
planners to refer back to Desert Crossing as they prepared for the 2003
invasion, the response reportedly was, "Never heard of it."
Now, seven years later, documentation on preparations for the games and
detailed After Action records have surfaced in response to a Freedom of
Information Act request by the National Security Archive, which is
posting the materials on its Web site today.
"The conventional wisdom is the U.S. mistake in Iraq was not enough
troops," commented National Security Archive director Thomas Blanton,
"but the Desert Crossing war game in 1999 suggests we would have ended
up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground."
Desert Crossing, which amounted to a feasibility study for part of the
main war plan for Iraq -- OPLAN 1003-98 -- tested "worst case" and "most
likely" scenarios of a post-war, post-Saddam, Iraq. The After Action
Report presented its recommendations for further planning regarding
regime change in Iraq. The results drew some pessimistic conclusions
regarding the immediate possible outcomes of an invasion. A number of
these mirror the events which actually occurred after Saddam was
* "When the crisis occurs, policy makers will have to deal with a large
number of critical issues nearly simultaneously, including demonstrating
U.S. leadership and resolve, managing Iraq's neighbors, and rapid policy
* "A change in regimes does not guarantee stability. A number of
factors including aggressive neighbors, fragmentation along religious
and/or ethnic lines, and chaos created by rival forces bidding for power
could adversely affect regional stability."
* "Iran's anti-Americanism could be enflamed by a U.S.-led intervention
in Iraq. ... The influx of U.S. and other western forces into Iraq would
exacerbate worries in Tehran ... More than any other country in the
region, the principals were most concerned by how Iran would respond to
a U.S.-led intervention in Iraq."
* "Iraqi exile opposition weaknesses are significant ... The debate on
post-Saddam Iraq [during the war game] also reveals the paucity of
information about the potential and capabilities of the external Iraqi
opposition groups ... [T]here was no dispute that if the United States
were to support them, much must be done in order for these groups to be
politically credible within Iraq."
These documents were posted today on the Web site of the National
www.nsarchive.org" target="_blank">-> www.nsarchive.org