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News | March 18, 2015

DIA’s crucial role in Operation Iraqi Freedom

By DIA History Office

On Mar. 19, 2003, U.S. forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom with a series of cruise missile and air attacks on Iraqi air defense systems, surface-to-surface missile sites and artillery emplacements. Attacks also took place against command and control targets, including an attempted “decapitation strike” against a compound used by Saddam Hussein and other senior members of the Iraqi regime. Special Operations Forces secured gas and oil platforms and other key objectives, and tied down Iraqi forces in the northern part of the country. The ground war began Mar. 21 and ground forces of the U.S.-led coalition reached Baghdad less than a month later.


During the major combat operations phase, the Defense Intelligence Agency provided a wide range of intelligence support. Specialists from DIA’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center based in the U.S. and forward-deployed, conducted daily analyses of Iraqi surface-to-air missile firing incidents and the overall disposition of Iraqi air defenses. Medical intelligence from DIA’s National Center for Medical Intelligence enabled deployed military medical units to care for military personnel in the field, and to take proper medical countermeasures against potential health threats. DIA analysts in the Iraq Intelligence Task Force and other analytic units prepared large numbers of reports on the conflict, including morning intelligence updates for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and contributions to daily intelligence summaries for the Secretary of Defense and the President. Transportation planning documents and operational support studies prepared by DIA supported the northward march of the First Marine Expeditionary Force, one of two U.S. corps-sized formations leading the assault. DIA personnel used information gained from debriefings and interrogations to track down several high-value targets, including Saddam Hussein.


These and other contributions during major combat operations were only the beginning of DIA’s support to Operation Iraqi Freedom. In subsequent months and years, DIA confronted new and evolving intelligence requirements that were fundamentally different from those it faced during the initial period of major combat operations. In the course of the long conflict the agency adapted and evolved. As a result, the DIA that emerged in 2011 differed in substantial ways from the DIA of 2003.


Today DIA uses all-source defense intelligence to prevent strategic surprise and deliver a decision advantage to war fighters, defense planners and policymakers. The agency collects and analyzes key data using a variety of tools, and deploys its personnel globally, alongside war fighters and interagency partners, to defend America’s national security interests.