US war games in 1999 predicted problems in post-Saddam Iraq

The U.S. government conducted a series of secret war games in 1999 that anticipated an invasion of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, and even then chaos might ensue.

In its "Desert Crossing'' project, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence officials assumed that high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs. The documents came to light through a Freedom of Information Act request by the George Washington University's National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library.

Thomas Blanton, the archive's director, said: "The conventional wisdom is the U.S. mistake in Iraq was not enough troops, but the Desert Crossing war game in 1999 suggests we would have ended up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground.''

There are currently about 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, down from a peak of about 160,000 in January.

One prescient extract from the documents states: "Even when civil order is restored and borders are secured, the replacement regime could be problematic - especially if perceived as weak, a puppet, or out-of-step with prevailing regional governments."

1999 War Games Foresaw Problems in Iraq (The Guardian, 4 November 2006)