Basrah: Missing the Iraqi Security Force Deployment


The Iraqi military deployed one of its two tank brigades to Basrah, yet this goes unreported. AFP Photo. Click to view.

There are four factors in determining when to transition a province to Iraqi control: the threat, Iraqi Security Forces capability, governance, and politics. The reporting on the turnover of Basrah province addresses three of the four factors in determining PIC; yet the established press leaves out one of the most important changes of the last year.

The reporting on the transition of Basrah province to Provisional Iraqi Control (PIC) has been filled with stories on the influence of the Jaish al Mahdi (the Mahdi Army), the Badr Brigades, various militias, criminals, United Kingdom forces, and politics. But the reporting has omitted a significant development in Basrah, and a crucial element of the story: the greatly expanded Iraqi Army presence.

The security situation in Basrah is certainly in need of being addressed, as Iran's attempts to influence the region, coupled with the extensive militia and criminal activity threatens the government's writ. The Iraqi government has committed significant resources to the southern city. Many of these units have been redeployed from regions where the Sunni insurgency is strongest.

One year ago the Iraqi Army had one brigade in Basrah, and it was reported as corrupt. The 1-10 Motorized Brigade has since been replaced by one of the three best brigades in the Iraqi Army. The 1-10 was sent to Wassit province to break its ties to the militias in Basrah.

The Iraqi Army now has four brigades and an Iraqi Special Operations Forces battalion in Basrah province. And the Iraqi Army is not finished; another brigade for Basrah is forming. The current and future units in Basrah include:

• 3-9 Tank Brigade (deployed from Baghdad to cover until 4-14 is formed)
• 1-14 Motorized Brigade (formerly the 3-8 Brigade from Wassit, replaced the 1-10)
• 2-14 Motorized Brigade (formerly the 5-10 Brigade, formed in May 2007)
• 3-14 Brigade (assembled in November 2007)
• 4-14 Brigade (forming by July 2008)
• Basrah ISOF Battalion (assembled from Anbar/Ninawa/Baghdad in August 2007)
• 14th Division Headquarters elements (diverted from Salahadin 12th Division formation; established Nov. 7, 2007)

The 3-9 Tank Brigade is the one of two tank-equipped Iraqi Army units, and it was temporarily deployed from Baghdad to Basrah. Yet the reporting continues to omit this very important factor.

In addition, the Iraqi National Police has sent two battalions of the 1st National Police Mechanized Brigade to Basrah. These forces are in addition to the Basrah based 2/IV Border Guards Brigade and the Umm Qasr-based Iraqi Marine Battalion.

All of this data is public knowledge and published. When discussing the security situation in Basrah and the transfer of provincial control, the Iraqi government's efforts to buttress the security forces must also be mentioned to tell the full story.



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READER COMMENTS: "Basrah: Missing the Iraqi Security Force Deployment"

Posted by Hamidreza at December 16, 2007 7:56 PM ET:

Good point DJ. I used to think that the sectarian nature of the army predisposed it to failure. But I think the events of the past 2 years has proven such concerns to be overblown.

However, I believe that the US presence as "the force of last resort" is critical and without it the Islamist factions will take over through attrition and Iranian backing. We may even see tactical alliances between al-Qaeda and al-Mahdi develop, if they were not kept in check. The stakes are just too high - namely, who gets to freeload on the oil and the illiterate masses, in the name of their exhalted diety, to allow for a reasonable socio-political development in Iraq. A western overlord is a must.

Posted by DJ Elliott at December 16, 2007 8:05 PM ET:

"the sectarian nature of the army predisposed it to failure"

Notice the IGFC addressed this factor by removing the corrupted 1-10 Bde and building 14th Division out of forces not from Basrah. Most of the 14th is assembled from the north including the ISOF Bn. Even the INP Bde sent is one of the better mixed and experienced. They went out of area for this force to reduce the likelyhood of militia ties.

The ISF is aware of its weaknesses and does address them. They just don't get credit for thier actions from the press...

Posted by anand at December 17, 2007 5:49 PM ET:

The 14th IAD is probably aiming towards an end state as a Mechanized division with 1 armored (tank) brigade, 2 mechanized brigades, 1 light armored cavalry (wheeled mechanized) brigade. The three tracked brigades will probably be armed with upgraded Hellinistic M60 tanks. The tank brigade will likely have about 80 such tanks while the mechanized track will likely have about 60 tanks. The total division will likely consist of about 200 tanks at end state. The first division to field upgraded M60 tanks is likely to be the 14th Mech IAD.

Probably the division's 9 line combat battalions (excluding wheeled lightly armored cavalry) will be pulled off line to be upgraded one by one. At end state there will be 5 tracked mech bns and 4 armored tank bns (in addition to 3 mech wheeled bns.)

I wonder about the ordering of this however.

My guess (and it is not based on any data, pure conjecture) is that the first brigade will start to mechanize (tracked) within weeks so that it can complete some of its mechanization before IA 3-9 has to be returned north. The second brigade will start to mechanize (tracked) around early summer. IA 4-14 will probably be created as a 1 light armored cavalry (wheeled mechanized) brigade next summer. The last brigade will probably begin to be upgraded to armored (tank) early in 2009.

I think that the highly capable IA 1-14 motorized will be upgraded last or second to last to hold the fort while its sister brigades mechanize.

The first IA brigade to Mechanize might be IA 2-14 (former IA 5-10 and before that SIB.) If the security situation in the South is good next spring, IA 1-14 will begin to mechanize. Or next up is likely to be IA 3-14.

Here is what 14th Mech might look like at the end of 2008:
1 C2 lightly armored cavalry (wheeled mech) in the fight.
1 C2 tracked mech brigade in the fight
1 C3 tracked mech brigade in the fight and in the process of completing its upgrade to tracked mech from motorized infantry.
1 C2 motorized infantry brigade in the fight.
1 C2 Construction engineering bn
1 C3 artillery regiment
1 C2 BSU
1 C3 Maintenance Bn
1 C2 MTR (understrenght bn since most transport functions will be performed at the brigade leve)
1 C1 Scout company in the process of upgrading to a C3 Scout battalion
1 C1 Base Defense unit (bn strength)

End 2009:
1 C1 lightly armored cavalry (wheeled mech) in the fight
2 C1 tracked mechanized brigades in the fight
1 C2 armored tank brigade in the fight
1 C1 Construction engineering bn
1 C1 maintenance bn
1 C2 MTR (understrenght bn since most transport functions will be performed at the brigade leve)
1 C1 BSU bn
1 C1 MTR
1 C1 artillery regiment
1 C1 Scout (battalion strength)
1 C1 Base Defence unit (bn strength)

DJ, what is the plan with respect to the division training centers? Weren't each division suppose to get 1?

Posted by DJ Elliott at December 17, 2007 8:23 PM ET:

anand:

"The tank brigade will likely have about 80 such tanks while the mechanized track will likely have about 60 tanks. The total division will likely consist of about 200 tanks at end state."

- They are equipping slightly lighter than that. 70 Tanks to the Armor Bde/50 to the Mech. 170. 10 tanks to the tank company with BMP1s filling out rest. The 9th is heavier because it is converting to Armored and is expected to have more detachments since it is strategic reserve...

"The first division to field upgraded M60 tanks is likely to be the 14th Mech IAD."

- Very likely. Focus on improvements is where the IA is PIC Provinces and Baghdad. The press has been claiming we are working out from Baghdad when the reality is we are working in from the outer provinces in ISF force development.

"Probably the division's 9 line combat battalions (excluding wheeled lightly armored cavalry) will be pulled off line to be upgraded one by one."

- No. They are more likely to form tank companies seperately. And elements of BMPs. Then convert the Bns with excess mot-inf consolidating into new 4-14. The tank companies new and only part of the Bn pulled at a time to provide the inf component. Remember that the Mot-Inf will require little training in this conversion. Then the 4-14 converts when the BTRs arrive. Just a change in vehicles. Only the vehicle crews will require serious training.

"I think that the highly capable IA 1-14 motorized will be upgraded last or second to last to hold the fort while its sister brigades mechanize."

- I expect them to be the first Mech Bde conversion with the excess infantry detached as they are replaced with Tank companies. These detached companies become the initial cadre of 4-14 bde. The 2-14 and 3-14 to follow with thier excess mot-inf going to filling 4-14.
- I expect 3-9 to be there till end-summer minimum. Looking for delivery dates of tanks, BMP1s and BTR3E1s for true timeline.
- Also note, the 1NPM is there filling the role of 4-14 and they will want it back for INP Operational reserve.

"Here is what 14th Mech might look like at the end of 2008"

- Artl Rgts do not start forming until 2009. The bdes fire support bns are what forms in 2008. Guessing categories is a dice role without knowing the key command personnalities in the individual units.

"DJ, what is the plan with respect to the division training centers? Weren't each division suppose to get 1?"

- Look at OOB. Last item in each Div entry. A part of the Div Support Rgt. Each Division is getting a training base (bn) by mid-2008. Most of the bases are already there, some were national/regional and others adhoc for divisional training. This is just formalizing and expanding what was already happening...

Posted by Marcello at December 18, 2007 6:00 AM ET:

"10 tanks to the tank company with BMP1s filling out rest."

I don't get the armored company structure. A ten tanks company entails a soviet style structure
(command tank + three tanks platoon x 3).
This is quite different from the typical US tank company albeit more similar to what AFAIK the iraqis used ( two tanks command section + three tanks platoon x 3). I would have expected US organization to be followed.

Posted by Turner at December 18, 2007 8:15 AM ET:

To me, it says something very important that the Iraqi Government would replace a corrupt, Shiite division with another to in order to maintain impartiality and success. Given the majority of Shiites among the current representatives in parliment, this tells me they value stability and advancement over sectarian politics.

Did the Iraqi Govt. come to this conclusion independently?

Posted by DJ Elliott at December 18, 2007 8:20 AM ET:

Marcello

They are still short in MBTs so they are employing BMP1s to fill out their TO/E in Armor.

~10 tanks plus ~4 BMP1s and 1 or 2 HMMWVs per company. Combined arms at company level.

Keep in mind that the BMP1 is a light tank with an 8-man infantry compartment. 73mm gun.

Posted by DJ Elliott at December 18, 2007 8:29 AM ET:

Turner

As best as I can determine, it was a joint decision.

Baghdad needed a dependable Bde to help build the new 14th Div. So they grabbed one of the only three category one IA brigades (3-8/Wassit) and swapped it with the corrupted 1-10/Basrah.

And then sent one of only three heavy Bdes in the IA (3-9 Tank) and two/thirds of the INP's Mech (2nd and 3rd Bns of 1NPM) from Baghdad to help out until 14th gets on its feet and gets its own armor. Note: the 1st Bn is in Phase III Carabinarie training at Camp Dublin.

The hard sell was reducing the quallity of Wassit's IA. Part of why they did it is the 3rd Georgian Bde was available to augment Wassit until July 2008.

P.S. Of the five ISF Bdes that have deployed away from Baghdad in the last four months. Four have gone south to deal with problems:
- 3-9 Tank and 1st NPM went to Basrah.
- 1-9 Mech and 5-2 NP went to Diwaniyah.
- The 6-2 is the only one to go north - Balad/Samarra.

Posted by Turner at December 18, 2007 12:59 PM ET:

Thanks DJ:
Your answer not only provides insight, but another good opportunity to think in terms of Bde's and Div.'s. "Carabinarie training" (above) being MP training?

Posted by Marcello at December 18, 2007 1:37 PM ET:

"They are still short in MBTs so they are employing BMP1s to fill out their TO/E in Armor."

Odd, I would have guessed that with all the military restructuring ongoing in eastern europe some more tanks could be spared.

~10 tanks plus ~4 BMP1s and 1 or 2 HMMWVs per company. Combined arms at company level.

That's one way to do it, although frankly cross attachments of platoons would probably be better because:

"Keep in mind that the BMP1 is a light tank with an 8-man infantry compartment. 73mm gun."

Not really, it isn't a tank, not even a light one, it was designed for a different task and if pressed in service in the tank role it will not fare well in demanding circumstances.
It was designed to carry an infantry squad and support it with its weapons and in a low intensity environment it can still do that. That's it, no more and no less. For example it cannot duke out with enemy tanks, even the iranian ones, with any hope of success (even in the 60's it was a questionable proposition, now it would be suicide). Even in more likely to happen counterinsurgency scenarios its lack of firepower and protection, compared to a tank, would be a liability if things get hot.
Yes it has a 73mm gun. But it's a low pressure, smoothbore one with a primitive FC. Note that it was replaced with a 30mm autocannon in the following version.

Posted by DJ Elliott at December 18, 2007 2:26 PM ET:

Turner:

Carabinarie or Gendarme type training is being provided to one Bn per Bde in the INP. By the Italian Carabinarie under NATO Training Mission-Iraq at Camp Dublin. Paramilitary Police training. There is no US equivalent. The Bn then returns to the Bde and trains them. 1st Bn/1st NPM Bde is due to graduate at end-year.

Marcello
- BMP1 has 73mm and ATGW.
- It was not replaced by the BMP2, it was augmented. The BMP2 with the 30mm DP cannon was fielded to offset the increased threat of NATO attack helos. They mixed the vehicles in Soviet Bns.

The replacement for both is the BMP3 with a 100mm gun/missile launcher and a coax 30mm DP cannon.

All BMPs were equipped with ATGW but, are not ment for fighting tanks. For what they are currently being used for, they are an effective tank for infantry support.

No worse than using a Bradley vs tanks...

P.S. Most of the old Soviet armor was sold or scrapped to stay within CFE requirements in the 90s.

Posted by Marcello at December 18, 2007 4:59 PM ET:

"Marcello
- BMP1 has 73mm and ATGW.
- It was not replaced by the BMP2, it was augmented. The BMP2 with the 30mm DP cannon was fielded to offset the increased threat of NATO attack helos. They mixed the vehicles in Soviet Bns."

Sort of. Yes, it did not replace the BMP-1 completely but that was the norm in the soviet army, as they could hardly afford to reequip the entire force in a reasonable time frame. And since the armament was kinda complementary they made mixed units instead of simply handing the earlier BMPs to lower priority units as did with the tanks. But the BMP-2 was not just an "alternate armament BMP-1". It was supposed to be a successor remedying some of the known deficiencies of its predecessor. Namely inaccurate gun and insufficient missile. For example one of the prototypes for the BMP-2 was armed with a longer barrelled 73mm gun, which is not what you would expect if the antihelo performance was the overriding design priority, although in the end the 30mm was deemed more practical. In any case AFAIK all BMP-2s units are the norm these days in the russian army.

"All BMPs were equipped with ATGW but, are not ment for fighting tanks. "

The basic BMP-1 carries the Sagger, which in its basic variants is a definitively non user friendly, MCLOS beast with insufficient penetration even against what the iranians would field. I would not be surprised if the iraqis had not got any missiles for their BMPs, certainly they have never been present on any of the pictures I have seen so far.

"No worse than using a Bradley vs tanks..."

Well, at least the Bradley has a very lethal missile system and its 25mm gun can cause all the sort of problems even without full penetrations. With its basic armor and ERA tiles it has a decent protection against RPGs and autocannons. The BMP-1 has nothing of the sorts.

Posted by DJ Elliott at December 18, 2007 6:41 PM ET:

Look up the Iranian inventory of tanks. Much is still Pattons. Every bit as suseptible as the Israeli Pattons in 73 were to Saggers. 90% of Israel's tank losses were credited to the Sagger in that fight.

PS It would not be difficult to fit them with TOW II...

Posted by Marcello at December 19, 2007 12:10 PM ET:


"Look up the Iranian inventory of tanks. Much is still Pattons. Every bit as suseptible as the Israeli Pattons in 73 were to Saggers. 90% of Israel's tank losses were credited to the Sagger in that fight."

Yes they still have Pattons, although my understanding that the older ones are covering the afghan border. They however have also nearly 500 T-72s (and those are mostly in IRGC hands AFAIK) and are busy upgrading a lot of earlier tanks with ERA.
AT-3s would be hard pressed to stop them.
Mind you the Sagger wasn't a bad weapon for its days but as I said, penetration issues aside, it takes good training to master and I doubt that would be a priority as it was in Egypt before 73'. Absent that its MCLOS guidance would make hitting targets a pretty tricky proposition. I will have some digging to do but I remember hitting chanches well below 10% for the syrian crews.


"PS It would not be difficult to fit them with TOW II..."

Basically any decent 80's ATGM would be good enough.

Posted by DJ Elliott at December 19, 2007 1:10 PM ET:

Actually, the MoD has been shopping for SAMs and ATGWs and they were not looking at Russian systems. They were looking at mostly western European.

Posted by DJ Elliott at January 4, 2008 9:17 AM ET:

Marcello

PS Even the US Military consider the BMP1 to have the atributes of a light tank.

http://www.mnf-iraq.com/images/stories/FJI/2008/january/fji08004.wmv