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• They believe that Saddam's inner circle--especially those from the Military Bureau--initially organized the insurgency's support structure and that networks led by former Saddam associates like al-Ahmed and al-Duri still provide money and logistical help.
• The Bush Administration's fixation on finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in 2003 diverted precious intelligence resources that could have helped thwart the fledgling insurgency.
• From the beginning of the insurgency, U.S. military officers have tried to contact and negotiate with rebel leaders, including, as a senior Iraq expert puts it, "some of the people with blood on their hands."
• The frequent replacement of U.S. military and administrative teams in Baghdad has made it difficult to develop a counterinsurgency strategy.
The accumulation of blunders has led a Pentagon guerrilla-warfare expert to conclude, "We are repeating every mistake we made in Vietnam."
THE WRONG FOCUS
It is no secret that General Tommy Franks didn't want to hang around Iraq very long. As Franks led the U.S. assault on Baghdad in April 2003, his goal--and that of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld--was to get to the capital as quickly as possible with a minimal number of troops. Franks succeeded brilliantly at that task. But military-intelligence officers contend that he did not seem interested in what would come next. "He never once asked us for a briefing about what happened once we got to Baghdad," says a former Army intelligence officer attached to the invasion force. "He said, 'It's not my job.' We figured all he wanted to do was get in, get out and write his book." (Franks, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this article.)
The rush to Baghdad, critics say, laid the groundwork for trouble to come. In one prewar briefing, for example, Lieut. General David McKiernan--who commanded the land component of the coalition forces--asked Franks what should be done if his troops found Iraqi arms caches on the way to Baghdad. "Just put a lock on 'em and go, Dave," Franks replied, according to a former U.S. Central Command (Centcom) officer. Of course, you couldn't simply put a lock on ammunition dumps that stretched for several square miles--dumps that would soon be stripped and provide a steady source of weaponry for the insurgency.