The June 2008 updates to the Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle are now available at the ISF OOB homepage. The significant changes to the Order of Battle that occurred in May are summarized below.
Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC): On May 13, the Commander of Multinational Division – Central South meet with the governor of Qadisayah (Diwaniyah) province and signed the memorandum for the readiness to transfer of authority. This was the last Provincial Security Transition Assessment conference for Diwaniyah. This indicates that Qadisayah is proceeding with turnover during the month of June.
Ministry of Defense
The concurrent operations in Basrah, Sadr City in Baghdad, and Mosul have strained the Iraqi Army’s ability to address additional areas where security operations were planned. During a May 28 briefing, General Abadi, the second-ranking officer in the Iraqi Armed Forces said operations in the Shula neighborhood, a Mahdi Army stronghold in Baghdad, have been put on hold due to a shortage of Iraqi forces. “We have sent most of our units to Basra and others we have sent to Mosul to support operations [in] Mosul, Abadi said. “The rest of our units [are] in Sadr City.” Abadi said operation in Shula would likely continue “after we have enough units.”
This shortage of troops should be alieviated since the operations in Basrah are winding up the clear phase, and moving on to the hold and build phase. This transition is freeing up some elements for redeployment. Said Abadi:
“I think we have close to two divisions there in Basra and because of the level of security is much better now, we’re trying to use those forces – the ones that we brought from Amara and the ones that we brought from the west, from the 1st Division – will be withdrawn soon. There are already orders for them to withdraw.”
Additionally, there is an agreement for 30,000 Peshmerga to be integrated into the Iraqi Army as two divisions. This has been in negotiations since December 2007. Also, the joint Anbar Operational Command is soon to stand up and assume control of all Iraqi Security Forces in Anbar.
Ministry of Interior
The Ministry of Interior plans one Iraqi National Police (INP) Brigade per province, according to the Senior Deputy Minister of Interior. There are 18 Iraqi provinces. However, four of the provinces have reasons for more than one brigade. Baghdad, Mosul, and Basrah’s population densities require additional forces. Baghdad requires a reinforced division and the other two provinces probably should have two brigades each. Anbar’s large area also requires more than one brigade. This announcement of a brigade per province indicates the probable INP planned strength is five to seven divisions, with 25 to 31 brigades. Current INP strength is three divisions with 13 brigades operational or forming.
The use of Emergency Response Brigades for national deployment continues. Operation Lion’s Roar in Mosul during early May was “carried out by elite force besides Scorpion and Lion forces from Kut and Hilla….” The Hillah SWAT Battalion is the Scorpions, and the Wassit Emergency Response Brigade (ERB) is the Lions. During early April, Hillah SWAT and the Karbala ERB deployed to Basrah. These deployments indicate a change in mission for these ERBs to include nationwide deployment. That is a role that belongs to the INP. With the planned addition of seven more battalions for the Ninawa province, there are a minimum of 24 ERBs (72 battalions) in the Iraqi Police. These temporary formations probably will be absorbed by the INP and the Department of Border Enforcement as part of their expansion.
Iraqi Security Force Improvements
One of the requirements for major US combat forces to leave Iraq is that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) become capable of taking on the security task. Since March 2008, the ISF has demonstrated several major improvements compared to its performance in 2006.
In August 2006, the Iraqi Army was incapable of moving three battalions to Baghdad with a month’s notice and did not have a functional corps level command element. Ministry of Interior (MoI) elements were in even worse shape at that time and estimated to be two years behind the army. However, operations since March 2008 have demonstrated major improvements:
• Initial force planning and the intelligence estimates of the threat in Basrah were incorrect. However, in subsequent operations, in Sadr City, this failure seems to have been addressed.
• The Iraqi Army response, moving a division of reinforcements to Basrah in five days, demonstrated a monumental improvement in operational logistics and mobility over 18 months previous.
• One Iraqi battalion broke, It was a new battalion (1-52) in a green brigade (52nd) that had graduated training a month previously. This was presented in the press as a symbol of the lack of capabilities of the Iraqi Army. What it represented was the low end of the Iraqi Army – the capabilities of recruits fresh out of boot camp. A classic example of why it takes time to grow an army. The 1-52 Battalion has since reformed and is receiving urban combat training. On the other hand, the performance of the experienced units, such as the 1st Quick Reaction Force was significantly better.
• The ability of the ISF to defeat the recent uprising in most of southern Iraq and to contain Sadr City until sufficient forces were available to deal with that area, despite elements from Baghdad, Babil, and Karbala being temporarily deployed to Basrah, demonstrate the improvements to the ISF overall.
• The Army has now demonstrated the ability to simultaneously operate three separate corps level operations (Baghdad, Mosul, and Basrah). Eighteen months ago they did not have a functional corps command.
• The Army has demonstrated the ability to move a division of reinforcements anywhere in the country within a week. Its a major improvement over 18 months previous.
• The Ministry of Interior has demonstrated the ability to deploy a reinforced brigade anywhere in Iraq in a week. Significant improvement.
• The rapid deployment of Emergency Response Brigades and Iraqi National Police forces to Basrah and Mosul demonstrates major improvements in MoI forces mobility and capabilities, although their logistics are still lagging.
While these are monumental improvements over their previous performance and capabilities, significant weaknesses still have to be addressed:
• Logistics and intelligence are weak.
• The army will not start to aquire its first field artillery until 2009.
• Additional corps and support elements are being built and is needed for current force, but the force does need further expansion of line elements. The Iraqi Security forces are currently adding their fourth corps level joint command, Anbar Operational Command.
• Major increases in armored vehicles, especially tanks, are needed.
• The Iraqi Air Force is a decade from independence. It takes two years to train a pilot compared to only three months for an infantryman.
The ISF is better than many claim, but it still is a work in progress.
CJ Radin contributed to this article.