Saturday, September 09, 2006
FORT EUSTIS, Va. — Long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists to develop plans for securing a postwar Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday. In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a postwar plan.
Rumsfeld did replace Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff in 2003, after Shinseki told Congress that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure postwar Iraq. Scheid, who is also the commander of Fort Eustis, made his comments in an interview with the Daily Press. He retires in about three weeks.
In 2001, Scheid was a colonel with the Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East. On Sept. 10, 2001, he was selected to be the chief of logistics war plans. On Sept. 11, he said, "life just went to hell."
That day, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of Central Command, told his planners, including Scheid, to "get ready to go to war." A day or two later, Rumsfeld was "telling us we were going to war in Afghanistan and to start building the war plan. We were going to go fast.
"Then, just as we were barely into Afghanistan, Rumsfeld came and told us to get ready for Iraq." Scheid said he remembers everyone thinking, "My gosh, we're in the middle of Afghanistan, how can we possibly be doing two at one time? How can we pull this off? It's just going to be too much."
There was already an offensive plan in place for Iraq, Scheid said. To start, the planners were just expanding on it.
"The secretary of defense continued to push on us that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay." But Scheid said the planners continued to try "to write what was called Phase 4," the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations such as security and reconstruction.
Even if the troops didn't stay, "at least we have to plan for it," Scheid said.
"I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that," he said. "We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today. "He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war," Scheid said.