Interim report: 91st Division didn't see it as war
Report investigating division's conduct during war in Lebanon reveals long line of failures in performance. Among findings: Division did not treat the fighting as a war. Preparations were confusing, objectives undefined, and most commanders stayed away from battlefield. So far no personal recommendations against senior officers
The report, conducted by Maj. General (res.) Yoram Yair unveils a long line of deficiencies and failures associated with the division, and the brigades and battalions which serve under it. There are, however, no personal recommendations against any single officer over the level of battalion commander. Officers in lower echelons are expected to be investigated further.
Having said that, the report indicates that much of the failings were of systematic nature which were not the fault of any single officer, but a general deviation from form.
One positive point which stems from the report is the individual performance of the battalions and companies which came in direct contact with Hizbullah. The results of these battles were all in favor of the IDF soldiers.
The positive comments, however, end there. The investigation raises major problems with the issues of battle management, its purpose and its objectives. One major problem reported by the investigators was the attitude towards the mission. According to the report, the officers and soldiers treated the fighting in Lebanon as a normal security incident and not as a war, including in the field, despite the fact that the senior officers and the general staff had said that they are indeed in a war.
As far as the 91st Division is concerned these are the following deficiencies reported:
The missions were not articulated clearly especially in two parameters: the purpose and the timeframe for the missions. Instead, only the objectives of the missions were defined clearly. This resulted in vagueness and inability to assess the results of the missions.
Frequent mission changes: the investigation found that the missions and orders were changed too frequently for the forces to prepare adequately. The missions were articulated in writing, phone, or radio, which contributed to the confusion, and mistrust among the command.
Frequent changes in the order of battle brought to a lack of understanding from units which do not organically belong to the 91st Division. They simply did not understand the terminology.
Inconsistency in managing the battles caused areas which were controlled by the IDF to be abandoned, only to be conquered again. There were extreme changes in the intensity of the battle moving from long periods of waiting to intense periods of activity in very tight schedules which caused confusion among the commanders. The battle orders were also not delivered clearly to the forces, a fact which did not allow the forces to maximize their firepower and use it efficiently.
As to the location of the brigade commanders, only the commander of the paratrooper's brigade chose to command the forces from within the battlefield, even when the forces had suffered losses and there was a need for that. Among the battalion commanders, that phenomenon was less prevalent, but did find some instances where the commanders chose to be outside of the battlefield.
A military source said that there is no unified formula as to the optimal location of the commanders, but it seemed that most of the commanders chose not to enter the battlefield with their troops.
On the logistical side, the report indicates that the division was unaware that there were tanks and bulldozers without fuel. In addition, the report indicates that there was not enough done to open logistical corridors into the forces. The brigades also did not prioritize the formation of logistical corridors. The report indicates that most of the logistical solutions were a result of improvisation.
Other findings include disorganization in extraction of forces from the battlefield, and the fact that the division did not achieve their objectives.
Not sticking to the missionThe report also indicated that the commanders of the division did not stick to the mission and did not show determination because they were afraid to take risks, logistical problems, and lack of preparedness of the force.
The report also indicated problems in the area of the so called "IDF spirit" which calls for constant contact with the enemy, determination, and personal risk taking for the name of the mission. In that area, the report indicated that the commanders acted timidly and did not wish to expand the mission and take the necessary responsibility.
The report also indicates deficiencies in the training of the forces and their professional readiness, which caused a problem in the way they performed in battle.
Despite the severe findings, it seems like there will be no personal recommendations drawn against the senior commanders of the division, but only against several officers on the level of battalion commanders who have deviated greatly from the acceptable practices to the IDF.
It is also important to note that Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has not finished the internal investigation and that further conclusions are due. Only after those conclusions are revealed, will the chief of staff decide whether to take personal steps against the top commanders of the division.