Winograd: IDF plans were anything but best-laid

Committee found problematic elements in command structure as well as in the planning stages.

IDF leaves lebanon 298.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF leaves lebanon 298.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
One of the most hotly-debated events of the Second Lebanon War was the final series of operations, collectively known as Operation Change of Direction, held in the days leading up to the cease-fire. With many in the public questioning the decision-making process leading to the operation, the Winograd Committee's final report also examined the IDF's planning and orders concerning the operation - and found a number of problematic elements both in the command structure as well as in the planning stages. The goal of the operation was, according to the cabinet's decision that was passed on to the IDF, to "take control of a security strip adjoining the border." The plan was okayed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and then-defense minister Amir Peretz on August 5, when they instructed the IDF to plan a "wide ground operation in the goal of offering a response to the continued rocket fire on the Israeli home front." The plan was to be presented to the cabinet for final approval as soon as the IDF was ready. However, the report noted, only a minority of the highest levels of political and military leadership believed that this was the only step that could determine the war in the favor of Israel. Ultimately, the strategic idea behind the operation was, in the words of the report, "to take control of south Lebanon, damaging the operational 'heart' of Hizbullah, and destroying its infrastructures in south Lebanon in order to improve the conditions for security solutions." The first major error that the committee uncovered within the IDF planning was the fact that while then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz instructed planners to consider two options: plans if a cease-fire went into effect on August 8, and plans if no such cease-fire went into effect. What he did not consider was the potential that a cease-fire could occur shortly after August 8, necessitating forces in the field to make an abrupt about-face in the middle of the planned ground operation. Similarly, no plans were drawn up for a smaller, more limited operation in the event that the larger ground operation would not be canceled but simply delayed. The operation was, in fact, delayed twice - each time by 24 hours - after it was approved. Over that 48-hour period, IDF planners took no steps to update or amend their original plans in light of the delay. Despite the lack of concrete plans for how to carry out an "about-face," Halutz informed OC Northern Command Udi Adam when he gave him the go-ahead, that he should be prepared for "a stop in the processes within a time period to be determined." The Winograd Committee noted that it was "not clear what the chief of General Staff thought about the implications of a restricted timetable." According to the report, it was only after the troops began to move into Lebanon that serious discussions were undertaken regarding the time of a potential cease-fire. "Around midnight, the political echelon determined that the operation must be concluded within 60 hours, and that the cease-fire would take effect on August 14, at 8 am," the committee wrote in their final report. It was only approximately 20 hours later that, according to the committee, Halutz updated the operational orders - and even then, he budgeted 72 hours for the process. Nevertheless, the orders still held by at least one of the divisions involved in the operation still called for "Stage A" of the operation to last 96 hours. Occasionally, the committee's probe found, when and how different field commanders were told to stop operations was varied and inconsistent. Due to this, and other planning inconsistencies noted by the committee in the final report, the report draws the damning conclusion that "it seems that the IDF General Staff - and even more so the political leadership - were not fully aware of the details of the operations in the field."