Leaving Kuwait, 20 years later


American military vehicles participate in a parade Saturday in Subiya, Kuwait, commemorating the 20th anniversary of that country's liberation after the 1990 Iraqi invasion. Gustavo Ferrari//AP

Twenty years ago this week the Iraqi army was leaving Kuwait. On Saturday, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined 22 presidents, 64 heads of state and other government officials at a commemorative parade and ceremony in Subiya, outside of Kuwait City.

Pomp aside, here’s a re-cap of what the Navy said worked (and what didn’t) in Operation Desert Storm/ Shield and what future operations may look like, plus some interesting numbers courtesy of a Naval Historical Center report.

  • Desert Storm and Desert Shield had a mix of factors that made operations easier than other campaigns, including wide opposition to Saddam Hussein, solid strategy and extensive infrastructure.
  • Desert Shield demonstrated that power projection depends on sea control. Investments in sealift in the ’80s paid off. Military Sealift Command delivered 3.4 million tons of cargo and 6.8 million tons of fuel to over 40 ports. This was over four times the amount of cargo sent across the English Channel to Normandy to support the D-Day invasion.
  • There were struggles delivering air tasking orders, the game plan for daily air operations. It was an effective planning tool, but there were problems circulating it. According to a DoD report, the plan was loaded into a laptop, ferried to Air Force Component, Central Command in the middle of the night and printed into paper copies. The hard copies were then sent back to planners where they were reviewed and transmitted electronically. This system worked during the first stages of the air campaign, but was too slow when there was an increased emphasis on mobile targets.
  • Laser guided bombs were used more than initially expected and became the weapon of choice.
  • Tankers were stretched thin, limiting the Navy’s long-range strike role.

U.S. soldiers march during the celebration Saturday. Gustavo Ferrari//AP


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