A. Principle Findings.
Following the Sabra and Shatila massacres, a Presidential decision was made that the United States would participate in a Multinational Force (MNF) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in carrying out its responsibilities in the Beirut area. Ambassador Habib, the President's Special Envoy to the Middle East, was charged with pursuing the diplomatic arrangements necessary for the insertion of U.S. forces into Beirut. His efforts culminated in an Exchange of Diplomatic Notes on 25 September 1982 between the United States and the Government of Lebanon which formed the basis for U.S. participation in the MNF. The national decision having been made, the Secretary of Defense tasked the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to develop the mission statement and to issue the appropriate Alert Order to the Commander in Chief United States European Command (USCINCEUR). Commission discussion s with the principals involved disclosed that the mission statement was carefully drafted in coordination with USCINCEUR to ensure that it remained within the limits of national political guidance.
The Joint Operational Planning System (JOPS) Volume IV (Crisis Action System) provides guidance for the conduct of joint planning and execution concerning the use of military forces during emergency or time-sensitive situation.
The mission statement provided to USCINCEUR by the JCS Alert Order of 23 September 1983 read as follows:
"To establish an environment which will permit the Lebanese Armed Forces to carry out their responsibilities in the Beirut area. When directed, USCINCEUR will introduce U.S. forces as part of a multinational force presence in the Beirut area to occupy and secure positions along a designated section of the line from south of the Beirut International Airport ot a position in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace; be prepared to protect U.S. forces; and, on order, conduct retrograde operations as required."
The wording "...occupy and secure positions along...the
USCINCEUR repromulgated the mission statement, essentially unchanged, to Commander United States Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR) on 24 September 1982. That OPREP-1 message designated CTF 61 (Commander Amphibious Task Force) as Commander, U.S. forces Lebanon and provided the following concept of operations:
"...land U.S. Marine Landing Force in Port of Beirut and/or/vicinity of Beirut Airport. U.S. forces will move to occupy positions along an assigned section of a line extending from south of Beirut Airport to vicinity of Presidential Palace. Provide security posts at intersections of assigned section of line and major avenues of approach into city of Beirut from south/southeast>to deny passage of hostile armed elements in order to provide an environment which will permit LAF to carry out their responsibilities in city of Beirut. Commander U.S. Forces will establish and maintain continuous coordination with other MNF units, EUCOM liaison team and LAF. Commander U.S. Forces will provide air/naval gunfire support as required." (Emphasis added)
The USCINCEUR concept of operations also tasked CTF 61 to conduct combined defensive operations with other MNF contingents and the LAF and to be prepared to execute retrograde or withdrawal operations.
The USCINCEUR OPREP-1 tasked CINCUSNAVEUR, when directed, to:
That OPREP-1 also included tasking for other Component Commands and supporting CINC's.
On 25 September 1982, JCS modified USCINCEUR's concept of operations for CTF 61 to read "...assist LAF to deter passage of hostile armed elements..." ( "deny passage of hostile armed elements...").
The original mission statement was formally modified by directive on four occasions. Change One reduced the estimated number of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops in Beirut. Change Two, issued on 6 October 1982, defined the line along which the USMNF was to occupy and secure positions. The third change (undesignated) was issued on 2 November 1982, and expanded the mission to include patrols in the East Beirut area. The fourth change (designated Change Three), was issued on 7 may 1983 and further expanded the mission to allow the USMNF to provide external security for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
Although some operational details were added, the original mission statement was repromulgated unchanged down the chain of command through Alert/Execute Orders and OPREP-1's. CINCSUSNAVEUR provided position locations for the USMNF forces ashore in Beirut. Commander Sixth Fleet (COMSIXTHFLT) designated CTF 61 and On-Scene Commander and CTF 62 as Commander U.S. Forces Ashore Lebanon and defined the chain of command. CTF 61 promulgated detailed operational procedures for amphibious shipping, boats and aircraft to facilitate ship-to-shore movement. CTF 62 provided the detailed ship-to-shore movement plan for the MAU and the concept of operations for the initial three days ashore.
USCINCEUR engaged in some mission analysis (e.g., crafting the concept of operations and working operational constraint wording with JCS) and provided detailed tasking to subordinates and to supporting CINC's. However, the mission statement and the concept of operations were passed down the chain of command with little amplification. As a result, perceptual differences as to the precise meaning and importance of the "presence" role of the USMNF existed throughout the chain of command. Similarly, the exact
Clarification of the mission tasks and concepts of operations would not only have assisted the USMNF commanders to better understand what was required, it would also have alerted higher headquarters to the differing interpretations of the mission at intermediate levels of command. The absence of specificity in mission definition below the USCINCEUR level concealed differences of interpretation of the mission and tasking assigned to the USMNF.
The commission's inquiry clearly established that perceptions of the basic mission varied at different levels of command. The MAU commanders, on the ground in Beirut, interpreted their "presence" mission to require the USMNF to be visible but not to appear to be threatening to the populace. This concern was a factor in most decisions made by the MAU Commanders in the employment and disposition of their forces. The MAU Commander regularly assessed the effect of contemplated security actions on the "Presence" missions.
Another area in which perceptions varied was the importance of Beirut International Airport (BIA) to the USMNF mission and whether the USMNF had any responsibility to ensure the operation of the airport. While all echelons of the military chain of command understood that the security of BIA was not a part of the mission, perceptions of the USMNF's implicit responsibility for airport operations varied widely. The U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, and others in the State Department, saw an operational airport as an important symbolic and practical demonstration of Lebanese sovereignty. On television on 27 October 1983, the President stated: "Our Marines are not just sitting in an airport. Part of their task is to guard that airport. Because of their presence the airport remained operational." The other MNF commanders asserted to the Commission that, while BIA is not specifically the responsibility of any one MNF contingent, an operational airport is important to the viability of the MNF concept. The MAU Commanders interviewed Commission all believed they had some responsibility for ensuring an open airport as an implicit part of their mission.
The Commission concludes that the "presence" mission was not interpreted in the same manner by all levels of the chain of command and that perceptual differences regarding that mission, including the responsibility of the USMNF for the security of Beirut International Airport, should have been recognized and corrected by the chain of command.
II. THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT
A. Principal Findings.
The mission of the USMNF was implicitly characterized as a peace-keeping operation, although "peace-keeping" was not explicit in the mission statement. In September 1982, the President's public statement, his letter to the United Nations' Secretary General and his report to the Congress, all conveyed a strong impression of the peace-keeping nature of the operation. The subject lines of the JCS Alert and Execute Orders read, "U.S. Force participation in Lebanon Multinational Force (MNF) Peacekeeping Operations." (Emphasis added) Alert and Execute Orders were carefully worded to emphasize that the USMNF would have a non-combatant role. Operational constraint sections included guidance to be prepared to withdraw if required by hostile action. This withdrawal guidance was repeated in CICNEUR's OPREP-1.
A condition precedent to the insertion of U.S. forces into Beirut was that the Government of Lebanon and the LAF would ensure the protection of the MNF, including the securing of assurances from armed factions to refrain from hostilities and not to interfere with MNF activities. Ambassador Habib received confirmation from the Government of Lebanon that these arrangements had been made. These assurances were included by the Government of Lebanon in its exchange of notes with the United States.
It was contemplated from the outset that the USMNF would operate in a relatively benign environment. Syrian forces were not considered a significant threat to the MNF. The major threats were thought to be unexploded ordnance and possible sniper and small unit attacks from PLO and Leftist militias. It was anticipated that the USMNF would be perceived by the various factions as evenhanded and neutral and that this perception would hold through the expected 60 day duration of the operation.
The environment into which the USMNF actually deployed in September 1982, while not necessarily benign was, for the most part, not hostile. The Marines were warmly welcomed and seemed genuinely to be appreciated by the majority of Lebanese.
By mid-March 1983, the friendly environment began to change as evidenced by a grenade thrown at a USMNF patrol on 16 March, wounding five Marines. Italian and French MNF contingents were the victims of similar attacks.
The destruction of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on 18 April, indicative of the extent of the deterioration of
During August, rocket, artillery and mortar fire began impacting at BIA. On 28 August 1983, the Marines returned fire for the first time. Following the deaths of two Marines in a mortar attack the following day, the USMNF responded with artillery fire. On 31 August, Marine patrols were terminated in the face of the sniper, RPG and artillery threats.
Fighting between the LAF and the Druze increased sharply with the withdrawal of the IDF from the Alayh and Shuf Districts on 4 September 1983. Two more Marines were killed by mortar or artillery rounds at BIA on 6 September 1983. By 11 September, the battle for Suq-Al-Gharb was raging. The USMNF, under frequent attack, responded with counter-battery fire and F-14 tactical air reconnaissance pod TARPS missions were commenced over Lebanon.
On 16 September 1983, U.S. Naval gunfire support was employed in response to shelling of the U.S. Ambassador's residence and USMNF positions at BIA. On 19 September, following a National Command Authority (NCA) decision, Naval gunfire support was employed to support the LAF fighting at Suq-Al-Gharb. On 20 September, the F-14 TARPS aircraft were fired on by SA-7 missiles.
During the period 14-16 October 1983, two Marines were killed on the BIA perimeter in separate sniper incidents.
By the end of September 1983, the situation in Lebanon had changed to the extent that not one of the initial conditions upon which the mission statement was premised was still valid. The environment clearly was hostile. The assurances the Government of Lebanon had obtained from the various factions were obviously no longer operative as attacks on the USMNF came primarily from extralegal militias. Although USMNF actions could properly be classified as self-defense and not "engaging in combat," the environment could no longer be characterized as peaceful. The image of
The inability of the Government of Lebanon to develop a political consensus, and the resultant outbreak of hostilities between the LAF and armed militias supported by Syria, effectively precluded the possibility of a successful peacekeeping mission. It is abundantly clear that by late summer 1983, the environment in Lebanon changed to the extent that the conditions upon which the USMNF mission was initially premised no longer existed. The Commission believes that appropriate guidance and modification of tasking should have been provided to the USMNF to enable it to cope effectively with the increasingly hostile environment. The Commission could find no evidence that such guidance was, in fact, provided.
III. THE EXPANDING MILITARY ROLE
A. Principal Findings.
The "presence" mission assigned to the USMNF contemplated that the contending factions in Lebanon would perceive the USMNF as a neutral force, even handed in its dealings with the confessional groups that comprise Lebanese society. The mission statement tasked the USMNF to "establish an environment which will permit the Lebanese Armed Forces to carry out their responsibilities in the Beirut area." When hostilities erupted between the LAF and Shiite and Druze militias, USMNF efforts to support the LAF were perceived to be both pro-Phalangist and anti-Muslim.
USMNF support to the LAF increased substantially following their arrival in September 1982. The first direct military support to the LAF was in the form of training which the USMNF began to provide in November 1982.
In August and September 1983, the U.S. resupplied the LAF with ammunition. The LAF were engaged in intense fighting against the Druze and various Syrian surrogates. The ammunition came from MAU, CONUS and USCINCEUR stocks, and was delivered by Military Sealift Command, Mobile Logistic Support Force (CTF 63), and CTF 61 ships.
On 19 September 1983, naval gunfire was employed in direct support of the LAF at Suq-Al-Gharb.
Following the U.S. action in providing Naval gunfire support for the LAF at Suq-Al-Gharb, hostile acts against the USMNF increased and the Marines began taking significantly more casualties. A direct cause and effect linkage between Suq-Al-Gharb and the terrorist bombing on 23 October 1983, cannot be determined. The views of the senior civilian and military officials interviewed by the Commission varied widely on this issue. Some believe that it was not a consequence of our relationships with any faction; that regardless of its actions, the USMNF would still have been targeted by terrorists. Others believe that certain factions wanted to force the MNF out of Lebanon and that the bombing of the BLT Headquarters building was the tactic of choice to produce that end. The prevalent view within the USCINCEUR chain of command, however, is that there was some linkage between the two events. Whether or not there was a direct connection between Suq-Al-Gharb and the increase in terrorist attacks on the USMNF, the public statements of factional leaders confirmed that a portion the Lebanese populace no longer considered the USMNF neutral.
The Commission believes that from the very beginning of the USMNF mission on 29 September 1982, the security of the USMNF was dependent upon the continuing validity of four basic conditions.
As the political/military situation evolved, three factors were impacting adversely upon those conditions. First, although the mission required that the USMNF be perceived as neutral by the confessional factions, the tasks assigned to the USMNF gradually evolved to include active support of the LAF. A second factor was the deep-seated hostility of Iran and Syria toward the United States combined with the capability to further their own political interests by sponsoring attacks on the USMNF. And finally, the progress of diplomatic efforts to secure the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon faltered. The combination of these three factors served to invalidate the first two conditions and to complicate the third.
U.S. policy makers recognized that the conditions upon which the mission of the USMNF was premised were tenuous and that the decision to deploy the USMNF into Beirut involved considerable risk. The military mission was directed in concert with extensive diplomatic initiatives designed to shore up the Government of Lebanon and establish a climate for political reconciliation. At the same time that the political/military conditions in Lebanon deteriorated, the U.S. military role expanded in the form if increased USMNF training and logistic support for the LAF and in the form of changes to the rules of engagement of the USMNF to permit active support of LAF units engaged in combat with factional forces. That expanded role was directed in an effort to adjust to the changing situation and to continue to move toward realization of U.S. policy objectives in Lebanon. On the diplomatic front, achieving the withdrawal of foreign troops proved be more difficult than had been anticipated. The overall result was the continued erosion of the security of the USMNF.
The Commission concludes that U.S. decision regarding Lebanon taken over the past fifteen months have been to a large degree characterized by an emphasis on military options and the expansion of the U.S. military role, notwithstanding the fact that the conditions upon which the security of the USMNF were based continued to deteriorate as progress toward a diplomatic solution slowed. The Commission further concludes that these decisions may have been taken without clear recognition that these initial conditions had dramatically changed and that the expansion of our military involvement in Lebanon greatly increased the risk to, and adversely impacted upon the security of, the USMNF. The Commission therefore concludes that there is an urgent need for reassessment of alternative means to achieve U.S. objectives in Lebanon and at the same time reduce the risk to the USMNF.
The Commission recommends that the Secretary of Defense continue to urge that the National Security Council undertake a reexamination of alternative means of achieving U.S. objectives in Lebanon, to include a comprehensive assessment of the military security options being developed by the chain of command and a more vigorous and demanding approach to pursuing diplomatic alternatives.