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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Clonan, T., 2003: Mission Impossible: The US Military Cannot Provide Security In Iraq, Dublin: The Irish Times.


The acronym METTS is familiar to military commanders the world over. METTS consists of a problem solving approach to military scenarios under the following headings; Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, Space and time. When applied to the situation facing US commanders in Iraq - as the June 30th deadline for transition to power expires - many challenges become apparent. In terms of mission, the situation is complex. The military are favourably predisposed to simple mission statements that contain clearly articulated aims and objectives within a definite time-frame. The invasion phase of the war in Iraq was a classic example of such a clearly defined mission. Simply stated, the mission consisted of a rapid armoured advance on Baghdad, the removal of Saddam’s regime and the destruction of his military infrastructure. These were clearly identifiable deliverables that were quantifiable and reasonably predictable in terms of operational planning and logistical support. The resulting campaign was an American Blitzkrieg that secured all three objectives. By April the 17th, D plus 30, Saddam’s statues were being toppled in central Baghdad. The occupation and nation-building phases of the war have proven far more complex. The first objective in this mission – to provide a secure environment with which to facilitate reconstruction projects, consensus building and democratic structures – has not been achieved. Nor is there a clearly defined time frame for the achievement of a stable democracy. There is no withdrawal date for US troops and no consensus between the White House and the Pentagon as to precisely how long American troops should stay in Iraq. Such an open ended arrangement inevitably leads to what the military term ‘mission creep’. In the absence of a clear exit strategy, US troops on the ground in Iraq will become involved in an increasingly complex and hostile environment, characterised by increasing casualty rates and few concrete successes on the battlefield.