The Pentagon yesterday announced a landmark change in the use of combat troops, elevating "stability missions" -- commonly called nation-building -- to an equal status with major combat operations.
The evolution in war-planning priorities underscores how the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terror network continue to fundamentally reshape how U.S. military commanders deploy the armed forces.
Not only are U.S. forces becoming more mobile to better counter Islamic terrorists, but the chain of command now will be trained in how to "build" nations by creating indigenous security forces, democratic institutions and free markets.
"I remember intense debates 10 or 15 years ago on whether military operations other than war ought to be core mission, and there was a huge divide," said Air Force Col. J. Scott Norwood, the Pentagon's deputy director of international negotiations and multilateral affairs. "And now there is no question it is."
Pentagon Directive No. 3000 orders U.S. commanders around the globe to infuse postwar stability missions into every war plan. Commanders also are to start coordinating with civilians at the State Department and other agencies to create nation-building teams.
The change shows how President Bush, who campaigned in 2000 against overcommitting U.S. troops to peacekeeping, is convinced that nation-building must become a core part of the training and war doctrine of the armed forces.
The new policy, signed Nov. 28 by acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, is an indirect acknowledgment that the Pentagon badly bungled the planning for Iraq after it ousted Saddam Hussein in April 2003.
Security broke down across Iraq with the rise of an unpredicted violent insurgency. Cash-infused reconstruction projects received little financial oversight. And the Pentagon encountered roadblocks in getting properly skilled federal workers into Baghdad.
A secret study conducted for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, obtained and disclosed in September 2003 by The Washington Times, found that military planners spent relatively little time on postwar planning in Iraq and did not properly carry out the interagency process with the White House, State Department and other government agencies.
That is all supposed to change under Directive 3000, which first was ordered to be developed 18 months ago by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Its major objectives include making sure there is a plan to restore security quickly after major combat operations end, and then have funds ready to begin rebuilding.
Military officers say that until that time, such stability operations were almost an afterthought to war planners, who focused on the primary mission of defeating the enemy and taking territory.
That focus broadens with the new directive's one overriding paragraph:
"Stability operations are a core U.S. military mission that the Department of Defense shall be prepared to conduct and support. They shall be given priority comparable to combat operations and be explicitly addressed and integrated across all DoD activities including doctrine, organizations, training, education, exercises, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and planning."
The directive is titled "Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction Operations."
Jeffrey Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations, said the policy draws lessons from many military operations, not just Iraq. It is required, he said, because a major Bush-administration goal is to prevent al Qaeda and other terrorist groups from setting up shop in so-called ungoverned areas, or failing states, around the world.
Mr. Nadaner said planners rejected the idea of dedicating specific military units to stability missions. He said the Pentagon wants all deployed forces trained in nation-building to make a smoother transition from major combat to humanitarian work.
"They need to rapidly be able to jump back and forth," Mr. Nadaner said.
Mr. Rumsfeld's directive puts in writing some of the missions the military already has been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"U.S. military forces shall be prepared to perform all tasks necessary to establish or maintain order when civilians cannot do so," the policy states.
"Successfully performing such tasks can help secure a lasting peace and facilitate the timely withdrawal of U.S. and foreign forces."
Among the goals and functions listed in the paper are to rebuild security forces, prisons and judicial systems; "revive or build the private sector"; and "develop representative governmental institutions."