Published: 26 February 2007
Air & Space Power Journal - Winter 2007
All Roads Lead to Baghdad: Army Special Operations Forces in Iraq by Charles H. Briscoe et al. USASOC History Office (http://www.gpo.gov), Fort Bragg, North Carolina 28307, 2006, 517 pages, $45.00 (softcover).
Written by people involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom, All Roads Lead to Baghdad is an eye-opening account of that operation, including the occupation of Iraq. The staff of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) History Office has composed a superb picture of this war and its aftermath.
The book relates the importance and effect of special forces in Iraq through the eyes of the soldiers involved, from planners and generals to operatives in various special-forces teams. Despite the subtitle, the study deals not only with USASOC but also with many of the conventional operations during the war, including deployments and the history of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. USASOC also provides a wide variety of information, much of it conveyed by charts, graphs, and maps, as well as firsthand accounts of soldiers and airmen.
The first chapter, one of the book’s most valuable sections, explains the importance of Iraq to the Middle East and the United States. Many Americans still have false perceptions of the state of Iraq before coalition forces invaded in 2003. It describes Saddam and his regime as “not a toothless lion” (p. 6), explaining that he could call on 400,000 regular forces and twice that number of reservists. The author also discusses Saddam’s fedayeen and the capabilities of these fanatically dedicated brigades. This discussion includes diagrams of the Iraqi order of battle prior to Iraqi Freedom. I was surprised to see that, at that time, Iraq boasted 325 combat aircraft. Only 20 of them remain operational today.
Another section of the book that I found fascinating addresses the employment of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-North and the trouble experienced by coalition special forces because of Turkey’s refusal to allow their deployment during Iraqi Freedom. This impasse led to the creation of Operation Ugly Baby, a flight path so ugly “only a mother could love it” (p. 117). The war would have proceeded much more quickly with Turkey’s support.
Written chronologically, the study covers details down to the hour when the planning stage began and provides a “five-month snapshot” of Iraqi Freedom (p. 451). Some portions seem repetitive, however, and several times the authors’ clear recounting of operations makes the summaries unnecessary.
All Roads Lead to Baghdad gives readers a chance to see Iraqi Freedom through the eyes of the people who fight on and behind the front lines. It also allows them to understand how special forces of all branches affect the outcome of major operations. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in special operations and Iraq.
Cadet Jake A. Dugat, USAF
Air Force ROTC, University of Houston
conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the
author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of
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