A study of U.S. military operations in Iraq, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sharply criticizes Pentagon attempts to plan...

WASHINGTON — A study of U.S. military operations in Iraq, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, sharply criticizes Pentagon attempts to plan for the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion two years ago, saying stabilization and reconstruction issues “were addressed only very generally” and “no planning was undertaken to ensure the security of the Iraqi people.”

The study, done by Rand, an independent research group, also says the experience in Iraq has underscored the Pentagon’s tendency “not to absorb historical lessons” when battling insurgencies.

The study cites inflated expectations at the outset about airstrikes in toppling the Baghdad government, poor performance by Apache helicopters in attack missions, delays in bomb-damage assessments, gaps in tactical intelligence for battlefield commanders, disruptions in supply lines and inadequate coordination between Special Operations units and conventional forces.

Rumsfeld, who received the report last month, sent it to members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and civilian leaders of the military services with a March 1 cover note saying the Rand recommendations “are worth our careful consideration.”

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The report notes that the opening salvo of airstrikes, dubbed “shock and awe,” did not precipitate the collapse of the government that air-power advocates had hoped for.

“The attacks on ‘regime’ targets (leadership, command and control and infrastructure) were able to disrupt but not eliminate the ability of Iraqi leaders to communicate with the Iraqi people and military forces,” the report says. “For the future, a caution is in order with respect to expectations of what air attacks on ‘regime’ targets can achieve.”

Later helicopter attack missions against Iraqi forces “proved risky and not very productive,” the report says, a reference to the troubles Apache units encountered dealing with ground fire from hidden enemy fighters.

Intelligence gathering, too, fell short. Airborne sensors were “in many cases unable to locate and identify” the swarms of Iraqi paramilitary fighters who moved along roads in civilian vehicles or hid out in built-up neighborhoods, the report says. When information about enemy locations did become available, it frequently failed to get far enough down the chain of command.

Planning for the invasion’s aftermath rested with the Defense Department, the report recalls, rather than with the State Department or the National Security Council. “Overall, this approach worked poorly,” the report says, noting that the Pentagon lacked the expertise, funding authority and contacts with civilian aid organizations for the job.