'It is clear today that the military failures [during the summer's war in the North] occurred in the senior military leadership, while the soldiers from the brigade commanders down fought bravely," MK Effie Eitam (National Union-NRP) told the Winograd Committee on Monday.
The Winograd Committee is in charge of investigating the conduct of the war. Eitam, a reserve brigadier-general and former commander of Division 91, the Galilee Division that conducted much of the fighting during the summer, related to the committee his assessment of the campaign and its management.
"I was the last commander of Division 91 before we fled Lebanon," Eitam told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "I was the last commander who fought Hizbullah, so I spoke [to the committee] about the differences [between IDF doctrine now and then] in terms of initiative, striving for contact and the like." According to Eitam, these classic IDF battle doctrines "disappeared" following the withdrawal "until the main goal of the army was not to get kidnapped."
In addition, Eitam told the committee that the withdrawal led to a deterioration of the IDF's intelligence on Lebanon. "The IDF hasn't even established sovereignty on the border," he said.
"With the resources and soldiers at our disposal, we could have ensured victory had we not had a failed senior military leadership," he declared.
Asked what led to what he believes is the poor quality of the military high command, Eitam listed several factors, including the early release of senior officers, the entrenching of a fighting doctrine that was dependant on firepower and aerial assaults, and the lack of firsthand war experience among the senior brass. "The four people who had to make the decisions in the war weren't [qualified]," Eitam believes.
"The chief of staff [Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz] isn't qualified to conduct a ground offensive. Then-OC Northern Command [Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Adam] was the man who knew the least about the Lebanon area and conducting battle operations there. And the Prime Minister [Ehud Olmert] and Defense Minister [Amir Peretz] have no clue about fighting a war," he charged.
Eitam promises to investigate these "blunders," as he calls them, in a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Eitam, who visited the Northern Command, Division 91 and the fighting brigades to see first-hand the conduct of combat operations during the fighting, told the Winograd Committee about these activities.
The committee also heard testimony on Monday from Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad. The head of the Policy-Security Department in the Defense Ministry, Gilad was questioned regarding the work of the department during the summer war and on the coordination between the department and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Gilad also gave his assessment on the management of the military campaign itself.
On Tuesday, the committee will hear testimony from Brig.-Gen. Erez Zuckerman, who commanded the reserve armored division during the war, and former defense minister Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Mordechai. Mordechai's appearance before the committee comes as part of the committee's examination into the security doctrine prior to the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
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