WASHINGTON – The U.S. military has graded itself in a secret report card, in an internal evaluation of its performance in Operation Iraqi Freedom (search).
The report, called Operation Iraqi Freedom Strategic Lessons Learned, was described to Fox News Wednesday as an assessment of the Iraq campaign and all of its subsequent difficulties. While it was described as "sobering," it was also depicted as a "work in progress" whose contents will change as the post-conflict situation develops.
Receiving high grades in the report were the military's bombing of sensitive targets and actions known as Joint Service Warfare (search) -- getting the different branches of the military to work together to complete the mission.
One official confirming the report to Fox News said those two aspects earned grades of 93 out of 100. The official also said that score was not good enough, because the further away from a perfect 100 the more lives are lost.
"Ninety-five or 98 would not be good enough either," the official told Fox News. "We have to do everything we can to get 100 percent, because lives depend on it, and I don't mean just ours. The military does 'lessons learned' to a fault in an effort to get us as close to 100 as possible."
Not doing as well were postwar planning and the search for weapons of mass destruction (search). Those two facets of the campaign, which began much more quickly than officials anticipated, earned the lowest grades.
"Weapons of mass destruction elimination and exploitation planning efforts did not occur early enough in the process to allow [U.S. Central Command] to effectively execute the mission," said the report as quoted in the Washington Times, which was allowed to view the document.
Officials said the combat phase, known in planning circles as Phase III, demonstrated that U.S. strength, agility, lethality and technological superiority could end a major conflict in very short order, but because Phase III ended so quickly, war planners should have started the Phase IV planning -- occupation, stabilization, humanitarian efforts and reconstruction -- much earlier than in any previous conflict.
The report was also critical of the mix of active and reserve forces, and troop deployment to the region.
The report did not concentrate on how incidents such as last month's bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad could have been avoided. But it did suggest that U.S. officials did not anticipate the organized violent resistance against U.S. troops in Iraq.
"This report doesn't say anything like 'the U.N. bombing could have been avoided,'" one senior official said. "It says, in a brutally honest way, that our time could be limited for Phase IV planning and we should change that."
Since major combat ended, car bombings, the use of improvised explosive devices and other attacks on U.S. and coalition forces have led to criticism from many in Congress and elsewhere that the Pentagon had no plans to win the peace.
The Bush administration is formulating a resolution to present to the U.N. Security Council to encourage members to send international troops to supplement the 140,000 U.S. soldiers as well as British, Polish, Dutch and Australian forces in Iraq.
"We should be willing to agree to a reasonable sharing of decision-making with respect to the physical and political reconstruction of Iraq," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The military began its "lessons learned" process weeks before the war began. Teams of military analysts, charged with drafting the report, had been assigned to a wide variety of Operation Iraqi Freedom units as well as command and support units.
It was the first time the evaluation process began before a major conflict kicked off, but senior defense officials said it makes perfect sense to take a critical look at operations since they are always looking for ways to improve.
Whether the lessons will have any lasting effect will remain to be seen, officials said. Some will apply to future conflicts, others clearly will not. Future teams of planners will have to figure those circumstances out on their own, the officials said.
Fox News' Ian McCaleb and Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.