This phase took place between April 2003 and December 2003.
The situation in Kurdistan was peaceful and secure and would remain so until the present.
The rest of Iraq faced several problems
1) Widespread looting and crime following the breakdown of law and order
2) Tribes and Religious militias began fighting each other for dominance
3) Sunni Tribes and Ba’athists began an insurgency
The looting subsided and US military forces managed to keep the tribes from entering a civil war.
The initial US Provisional Government did not last. General Jay Garner was given elaborate plans drawn up since 2001 for Reconstruction, dealing with possible humanitarian crises, law and order, handling oil fires, establishing governments, providing basic services and reconstruction. Plans are not reality. General Jay Garner could not humanly implement these plans in unexpected circumstances. This left the political situation unstable and left an impression of confusion.
The Ba’athists planned to wage an insurgency at the start of the war – perhaps explaining their strange reliance on militias to repel the invasion. Saddam armed Ba’ath Party and Fedayeen members with small arms like AK-47s, RPG-7s, and 82mm mortars. There were distributed arms caches across the Sunni regions and there were massive arms depots that remained unguarded after the war ended. Iraq had over 250,000 tons of munitions taken by insurgent forces.
Saddam, his two sons, and many high ranking officers and party members fled to the loyal Sunni region of Iraq and began a decentralized insurgency. Their goal was to restore Ba’ath Party rule over Iraq.
- Supported by Sunni Tribes in Anbar, Diyala, Saladin and Ninawa Provinces.
- Large arms caches and ammunition
- Cover provided by widespread crime
- Disorganized with unclear leadership.
- Tribes and Militias fragmented
The Ba’ath insurgency relied on small arms weapons. They used small squads armed with assualt rifles and RPGs to attack small American units. Other cells used mortars to attack American bases and installations. The Ba’athists focused their attacks on American and Kurdish military forces. Nearly all US casualties resulted from small arms fire during this period of time.
The US responded with a surge of infantry forces into the “Sunni Triangle.” It used intelligence sources to surgically kill or capture Ba’ath leadership to prevent the insugency from growing more coherent and powerful. US forces killed Qussay and Uday Hussein in July and captured Saddam in December.
The US defeated most of the Ba’athist insurgency and prevented it from becoming a major threat to the occupation. The remnants of the insurgents were leaderless and uncoordinated. Former Ba’athists either gave up the fight or left the Ba’athist Party to join new insurgent organizations.
The genocidal Anfal Campaign, prior to the war, was the Ba’athist attempt to push the Kurds out of the Kirkuk and Mosul regions and colonize the area with Arabs.
In 2003, the Kurds systematically expelled Arabs from the Mosul and Kirkuk areas and recolonize their old property. The transition in Mosul was capably managed by Gen. Petraeus and the 101st Airborne. The situation was more violent in Kirkuk.
Conclusion: US forces defeated the Ba’athist insurgency. This is partly because the Ba’athists mismanaged the guerrilla war as poorly as the conventional war.
Measuring the progress of the war cannot be done by bodycounts or superficial measurements. I’ll attempt a general depiction of the situation based on political control over provinces.
Dark-Blue: Friendly Secured Zones
Light-Blue: Friendly Dominated Zones
Blue-Purple: Light Contested Zone
Red-Purple: Heavy Contested Zone
Red: Insurgent Controlled Zone