The vision of an American Soldier who by fate became the Statesman responsible for the future of Iraq during the aftermath of a war in the midst of chaos. He took control of a situation that lacked leadership; resulting in a democratic parliament that ultimately benefited the people of Iraq.
In early January 2003, General Petraeus had a notion that he would be taking over for General Casey and commanding and leading the war of Iraq. Under this notion, he decided to take a trip to Santa Clarita, California to see his ailing father for possibly the last time.
On his way from the airport, as the General recalls in an interview with Bill Kristol in February 2006 every single cell phone in the car went off simultaneously. This is the moment his preconceived notion was affirmed as he discovered he was nominated to be the next Multi-National Force Commander.
General Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division was comprised of over 18,000 Soldiers, 5,000 vehicles, and 256 helicopters.
He learned on 18 April 2013 that they would enter through northern Iraq and take control of the Nineveh Province. A last-minute diversion. The Turkish parliament refused to allow the United States to use their bases. General Petraeus had to utilize critical thinking and problem solving in order to compensate for the change. General Petraeus was good at that. He and his Screaming Eagles entered northern Iraq at a record pace, only to find a city with a population of 1.7 million people left in shambles with no infrastructure, electricity, running water or garbage.
Complete chaos, little to no security left. To add insult to injury the actual war was over. The combat-trained Soldier had no mission or purpose at that moment. Saddam Hussein had been captured and most of his key followers and leaders had fled the city. Most of them were high ranking officers, lawyers, bankers, and religious leaders. General Petraeus began to seek an answer but to his dismay, no one from above him had any answers. No one knew what to do next. This is the point in which the General realized, the answers and decisions were going to come ultimately from him.
He understood and had an expectation he would have high stakes in the deployment but never knew he was the one that was going to call all the shots from the Department of Defense on down. To add insult to injury yet again, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) was nowhere ready to step in and begin the complex job to rebuild Iraq. It was a complete failure. A very poor response from an organization created solely for this purpose. Ret Lt Gen Jay Garner was the commander of the program during that time, but quickly was replaced a short time after. Gen Petraeus realized it was time to shift gears and go from a supportive role to a reactive role. Something had to be done and it had to be done quickly.
Towards the end of the conflicts, there were some plans to restore normalcy via the ORHA but no longer possible as the ORHA had its challenges. Basing on the pre-proposed plans the vision became clear; provide a secure environment, restore basic life services and facilitate normalcy. There were fifteen specific objectives required that ranged from electricity to running water. All extremely critical to achieve the overall goals. The only real issue at this point was that it was only a vision. No strategies had been developed. It was the ground commanders job to figure it out.
The good thing is that the big picture was clear. He quickly fell back to what he had learned back in Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), Somalia (1993), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1995), Kosovo (1999) and Afghanistan (2001). He quickly executes his organizational art skills and the orders went out. By April 25, division Soldiers were working with locals to get schools reopened by restoring electricity and running water. Engineers cleared the street, trash was picked up and information was announced with locations for locals to seek medical attention. By April 27, fuel and propane deliveries had begun. However, only a limited supply of resources were available due to severed supply lines and routes damaged during the height of the war.
During this period Gen Petraeus felt that all efforts would be useless if the citizens did not feel secure. So, once more he devises a plan to increase security with an emphasis on resource structures and perimeters around the major cities and villages. The only issue in this plan, is that the remaining police were thought to be corrupt. Slowly but surely he weeded out the toxic personnel through a series of intense screening processes to ensure there were little to no corrupt officers left.
Things began to take off and more and more was demanded from the General. It was overwhelming and not enough time in the day could resolve it. To manage and mitigate the demand for his presence from his team, he established a battle rhythm. According to Klecker & Peterson (2019) BATTLE RYTHM minimizes the friction inherent in combat activities by providing predictability to subordinates and better synchronizing different echelons of command. It was the only way to maximize his time and provide answers and solutions to all his commanders, staff and counterparts involved in his vision.
The morale had started to increase and once more Gen Petraeus seized the moment. He unwillingly believed that the pinnacle moment to give the country back, was now. Time to give the country semblance. He and his staff decided, that the best approach was to give the people a representation of government. Finally a democracy by the people for the people. The candidates had to be a representative of the country. Amongst many other problems, the provinces were split amongst the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. Regardless, a decision had to be made and ultimately he persuaded them to work together for a greater good. Being the risk-taker he is, he decided to move forward with preparation to stage an election without the consent or blessing from the United States.
After a relentless task of identifying candidates, the election was finally set.
On 5 May 2003, Maj Gen Al Basso. Kurd Kharso Goran became deputy governor and Assyrian Christian along with a Turkmen served as assistant governor. The foundation had been set and now it was time to gain the hearts and minds of the people and fully begin the rebuilding of a country with its people.
There were no easy settling moments throughout this ordeal. There was bloodshed, arguments, frustrations, and many other factors not mentioned. From border issues to oil deals. There were many setbacks and lessons learned. No matter what was thrown to him, he had the perfect solution for that moment. He was a perfect example of a Servant Leader. It is undeniable fate that an American Soldier with so much war and humanitarian experience to include a Princeton University, Ph.D., in International Relations, happens to be at the right place at the right time. His decisions and actions were critical in restoring normalcy and ultimately prevented a country from collapsing.