Al-Kut, Iraq: After-Battle Report
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2004, pp. 67-69
In April 2004, followers of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr launched a well-coordinated uprising across southern Iraq. While Western media focused on events in Sadr City, Najaf, and Karbala, violence occurred elsewhere as well. A Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) source forwarded the following after-action report regarding violence in the town of Al-Kut, the capital of the Wassit governorate and home to the Ukrainian contingent.
The unclassified report, written by a coalition security contractor, highlights dysfunction between regional coalition offices and the Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters in Baghdad, as well as tension between diplomats and security officers. The summary faulted a British diplomat who had "toned down" reports of Islamist activity so as not to alarm superiors in Baghdad. From my own personal observations while stationed in Baghdad, many U.S. diplomats committed the same offence out of either naiveté or a desire to be politically correct with regard to militant Islam. The report gave a minute-by-minute update of the battle.
The summary is provided here. The editors obtained the document through officials not in the U.S. government. —Michael Rubin
Incident: Possible attack against the CPA Compound
Date: 5 April 2004
Reported by: David Stokes, #293545, Site Supervisor, CPA, Al Kut, Iraq
Written by: David Stokes, #293545, Site Supervisor, CPA, Al Kut, Iraq
Report Date: 7 April 2004
This supplement report is designed to expound upon and bring to light several instances that occurred on or prior to 5 April 2004 that led to or enhanced the threat in which we faced at the CPA Compound in Al Kut, Iraq. I have broken this down by entity to cover those factors which I believe to be important and relevant to the attack and the result thereof.
KBR [Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton] had a role to play in some of the problems that arose during the attack that occurred on 5/6/7 April at the CPA Compound in Al Kut, Iraq. Primarily, the biggest issue is that of procurement and logistics. While not blaming any one individual, the fault lied more in the "beast of bureaucracy." Several specific examples come to mind …
Sandbags: On 9 December 2003, I requisitioned 3000 sandbags for use in hardening sites within the compound and installing fighting/defensive positions around the perimeter. The sand bags were not delivered until 7 March 2004.
Scud-bunkers: On 9 December 2003, I ordered 8 scud-bunkers... I received three (3) of the 8 on 10 March 2004. As a result of this incomplete order, several locations had no cover, and that was crucial when mortar rounds began falling into our compound during the assault.
Communications: One of the biggest disasters during this ordeal was the lack of an integrated communications network for the entire site. Each entity had its own commo gear, however, there was no tie-in with other entities. As a result, the POC [point-of-contact] for each entity ended up carrying 3 or 4 different radios which was cumbersome to deal with in the heat of battle. …
The Ukrainian Army played a significant role in the outcome of the events over the period of the assault. Let it be noted up front that the soldiers who were stationed at the CPA compound fought valiantly and tirelessly during the assault. They manned defensive positions all along the compound and fought throughout the day and night.
One problem, however, was that they were never prepared to fight a ground offensive. Towards the end of the night on 6 April, the Ukrainians began to run low on ammunition. Additionally, they had no Night Vision equipment nor did they have any heavy weapons which could be set up in defensive positions. …
The Ukrainian command structure also caused some problems and nearly cost us our lives. The Ukrainian command would not authorize the deployment of ordinance from fast movers, even as a show of force, due to the possibility of collateral damage. …
Triple Canopy was the contract provider for security at the CPA compound. They stood up operations on 15 March 2004 with a force of 69 local Iraqis hired predominantly from the town of Al Kut. When the firing began, most of the guard force abandoned their positions and fled the compound. When reinforcements arrived from outside of Al Kut, they too fled their posts and left us in a weakened defensive posture …
Many of the problems that we faced at our compound were directly related to the Governorate Coordinator's decisions. The GC, Marc Etherington, hampered and denied implementation of several defensive measures which would have greatly enhanced our defensive posture. One specific example was the treatment of our southern flank (the river). No less than three security entities (Triple Canopy, KBR and Global Security) recommended the implementation of T-walls along the length of the southern flank. The GC specifically denied that implementation as it would have obstructed the view of the river from the office building. … The GC compromised our security for aesthetic view. He said on numerous occasions that there was no threat from the river.
During the assault, we took numerous RPG rounds from across the river. Additionally, we took heavy machine gun fire from that direction as well.
The GC intentionally "toned down" reports of insurgent activity to his superiors in Baghdad. While every entity on post was reporting numbers in the hundreds of insurgents, the GC was typically calling this a small clash with 50 or less angry teenagers, to borrow his words. The enemy that we faced numbered between 250 and 300 and was a determined fighting force. At one point, the GC specifically asked me to "tone down" my reports as well as it was causing him to answer inquiries from Baghdad.
The GC attempted to control and to manipulate the flow of information ... At one point, he advised that he wanted all reports going out to be cleared through another member of the CPA staff ... I am confident that he also had knowledge or forewarning of these events through his contacts with local leaders. If so, then he failed to disseminate that information which allowed the enemy to maintain the element of surprise.
During the firefight, a request was made for fire to be drawn from the enemy so that the gunship could pinpoint the enemy locations and take them out. As everyone prepared to fire, the GC told everyone not to as it would break the terms of the "cease-fire" that had been arranged. There was no cease-fire in place as we had already taken rounds and continued to do so. As a result of his decision, personnel were subjected to additional fire that could have possibly been eliminated …
The final straw in this saga was his insistence that we not abandon the compound. He attempted to order the convoy halted while he pleaded with the General to reverse his decision. I am sure that he was under orders to hold as long as possible, but I feel those orders would have not been given had the facts about the situation been truthfully told. He then attempted to have one of his PSD [Personal Security Detail] block the convoy with their vehicle. The PSD disregarded that order and eventually told the GC to get in the vehicle or he would be left behind. His delay jeopardized our security. We were already aware of enemy mortar positions being erected on rooftops near our perimeter, and we were expecting incoming fire at any moment.
 Website at http://www.triplecanopy.com/sec_services/sec_svcs_iraq.php. —Eds.
Related Topics: Iraq | Fall 2004 MEQ
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