WASHINGTON – The White House took exception Sunday to the reported characterization of a British memo questioning the adequacy of U.S. planning for a postwar occupation of Iraq.
"There was significant post war planning," said spokesman David Almacy. "More importantly, the memo in question was written eight months before the war began; there was significant post war planning in the time that elapsed."
He was reacting a report in Sunday editions of The Washington Post that a staff paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) before the invasion of Iraq concluded that "a post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building (search) exercise" that could result in the United States looking to Britain "to share a disproportionate share of the burden."
"Some things we prepared for did not happen, like large numbers of refugees needing humanitarian assistance, and others we did not expect, such as large numbers of regime elements fleeing the battlefield only to return later," said Almacy. "Anytime you go to war you have to be flexible to adapt to the unexpected. That is why we gave our commanders the flexibility to do so."
The Post said the introduction to the British memo said planning for an invasion of Iraq was well underway, but that "little thought" had been given by U.S. officials to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it."
The memo was produced by Blair's staff in preparation for a July 23, 2002, meeting with his national security team that has become controversial since last month's disclosure of official notes summarizing the session — the so-called Downing Street Memo (search) that raised questions about how intelligence was used to justify the war.