The October 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 September are summarized below.
Provincial Iraqi Control.
On Sept. 1, Anbar Province became the eleventh of 18 Iraqi provinces to revert to Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC). Speculation as to when Babil and Wassit Provinces would follow has been all over the calendar, but all prior to December 2008. The latest 9010 Quarterly Report to Congress, released Sept. 30, states that Babil and Wassit will transfer to PIC in late-October and November respectively. The remaining five provinces are scheduled for 2009. This includes the four provinces with the highest numbers of attacks on Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces over the last year: Ninawa, Diyala, Salahadin, and Baghdad. The fifth province is Kirkuk, whose status remains a point of contention between the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government and the central Government of Iraq. Of particular note, all of the provinces are scheduled to transition before June 2009. This indicates the remaining coalition forces are to be in overwatch by the end of the summer 2009, with Iraqi Security Forces conducting day-to-day operation throughout Iraq.
Iraqi Air Force Development.
On Sept. 5, the Wall Street Journal reported that “The Iraqi government is seeking to buy 36 advanced F-16 fighters from the U.S., say American military officials familiar with the request, a move that could help reduce its reliance on U.S. air power and potentially allow more American forces to withdraw from the country than had been proposed.” On Sept. 10, this was clarified. The request was only a price check on what 36 F-16s and their support would cost, just shopping around. The Iraqi Air Force does continue to purchase and receive aircraft, but all of those purchases to date are helicopter and fixed-wing training, reconnaissance, and transport aircraft. This includes five additional Jet Ranger helicopters for the 12th Training Squadron that are to be ready for delivery by Nov. 15. A strong focus on helicopter force development is inferred by the fact that 50 percent of the pilots planned to be trained will be helicopter pilots and the fact that the Iraqi Army has been and continues training large numbers of air-assault qualified troops. However, much of the current focus is on developing the support structure and surveying bases for future aircraft basing:
“The third CAFTT [Coalition Air Force Training Team] focus area for the remainder of 2008 is IqAF infrastructure, which is fundamental to sustaining IqAF growth. Ongoing projects at Taji support training capacity growth as well as a Mi-17 avionics testing and maintenance requirements. Site surveys at Ali, Al Kut, and Shaibah support IqAF service plans. Additionally, ongoing work at New al-Muthanna Air Base supports Iraqi plans to permanently base a King Air detachment and to construct the IqAF aero medical center.”
Iraqi Army (IA) Force Development.
On Sept. 4, it was reported that “Construction has started on the Iraqi Army’s new Al Maymona Location Command in Maysan Province.” This is the redundant location command in the Iraqi Army’s 10th Motorized Division area that indicates a future new division planned. The 10th Motorized Division’s headquarters and already existing location command is at Nasariyah. On Sept. 29, the Iraqi Army took full control of the Bayji National Ammunition Depot from Coalition forces. This depot will still have a partnering coalition unit, but will have the primary responsibility. The Bayji Ammunition Depot supplies the northern divisions, Taji supplies the central divisions, and another ammunition depot is to be established at Najaf for the southern divisions.
On Sept. 9, it was reported that the Iraqi Army plans to lengthen Basic Training from five weeks to eight weeks. This was originally planned in 2007, but was delayed for the buildup of additional Iraqi divisions. In response to a request for information concerning terms of Iraqi enlistment in their voluntary army, Lieutenant Commander Russell, Multi-National Force-Iraq Press Desk Officer provided the following:
“There is no reserve requirement/service in Iraq any more (not since Saddam’s Time). Per Col. Ali, the Ministry of Defense Directorate, they used to sign a 2-year contract with each individual but have stopped doing that and now sign open contracts. If a soldier finishes 15 years of service and wants to leave, they will be entitled to a retirement. If they want to break the contract before they finish 15 years of service, they get 6 months’ salary as a reward (severance).”
This factor explains why there is no existing organized Iraqi Army reserve or planning for one at this time. Enlistment terms would have to be changed and/or separate reserve enlistment terms would have to be established to facilitate formation of a reserve. This means the Ministry of Interior’s paramilitary formations and the Iraqi Special Operations Force are the Iraqi Army’s only current backup in a general mobilization.
Training on route-clearance operations continues throughout the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi National Police and is the current primary training focus for support elements. Although some of the training is on the use of the claw on coalition Buffalo MRAPs, the Iraqi Army is not getting Buffalos. The claw used on the Buffalo is the same as the claw being fitted to the ILAV Badger, which is the 4×4 version of the Cougar MRAP. According to Staff Sergeant Boyd of Multi-National Force-Iraq’s Media Operations Center Press Desk:
“The Iraqi Army is not getting the Buffalo. They were training with the Buffalo’s Excavating Interrogator Arm because their Badgers are getting upgraded with the EIA. They soon will have the same Counter-IED Route Clearance capability that Coalition Force currently have.”
Another focus appears to be on air-assault training and operations. During September, the first reports of air-assault training in the 10th Motorized Division and the 14th Motorized Division were reported:
“The arrival recently of four Iraqi HIP aircraft with 4 Squadron Iraqi Air Force offered a new capability to Brigadier Bilal, the Commander of 51st Brigade, who selected his 1st Battalion to take on the role of becoming his Aviation Specialist Battalion.”
This indicates that at least one battalion per Iraqi Army brigade is to become air-assault qualified. Such training would not be so pervasive in the Iraqi Army unless the Ministry of Defense planned to buy the helicopter squadrons to support this capability. Of note, commando training requires this type of training as part of the qualifications.
The new 17th Commando Division is still using non-standard numbering for its battalions and brigades, contradicting the standardization in Ministry Order 151. Unit identifications include what should be elements from 6th Motorized Division, 15th Mountain Division, and the 11th Infantry Division. This is explained in the latest 9010 report:
“In the spring of 2008, the PM directed the formation of the 17th IA Division, which was created using excess forces from the 6th IA Division. Since these soldiers are still on the 6th IA Division payroll, the assigned strength of the 17th IA Division is reported as 0. Force generation plans for this division are ongoing. Additionally, the IA and the JHQ leadership are coordinating with the Kurdistan Regional Government to develop a plan to integrate two Kurdish Peshmerga divisions into the IA; however, the level of GoI and KRG leadership support for this initiative remains unclear.”
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense has not yet administratively established, transferred, and re-designated the components to the 15th Mountain Division (Kurdish), 16th Mountain Division (Kurdish), and 17th Commando Division. The current brigade and battalion designations in use are temporary.
Also of note, the Iraqi Army’s 4th Division is now showing references to being part of the Quick Reaction Forces. This could indicate that the Quick Reaction Forces, composed of the 1st Motorized Division, 4th Motorized Division, 7th Infantry (motorizing) Division, and the 9th Armored Division are the component divisions of the planned Iraqi Army I Corps.
Iraqi Special Operations Force (ISOF).
On Sept. 20, the 6th Commando Battalion was reported as the ISOF battalion in Basrah. This was the first of the four regional commando battalions’ designations to be reported. The latest 9010 report further identified that the 1st ISOF Brigade’s support battalion is the 3rd Battalion and its training battalion is the 5th Battalion. This indicates that the numbering of the ISOF battalions is sequential as they are formed, with the exception of the original two battalions (2nd and 36th). The new garrison support unit is to be formed by January 2009. Of note, the elite 2nd Counter-Terrorism Battalion, a unit that only the upper 30 percent of commando trainees can attempt to join (over 95 percent washout rate), is now being referred to as a ”reconnaissance battalion” and its detachments are “reconnaissance teams” in the 9010 report:
“Four regional commando bases (RCB) are currently being generated to increase ISOF presence and nationwide capability to conduct CT operations. These RCBs will each consist of a 440-man regional commando battalion, a 60-man GSU, a 30-man regional reconnaissance team, and a 40-man Regional Counter-Terrorism Center (RCC). The four RCBs will be located in Basrah, Mosul, Diyala, and Al Asad. RCB Basrah reached initial operating capability and at its temporary locations in January 2008. The permanent RCB Basrah will be completed in April 2009. RCB Mosul was completed in July 2008. RCB Al-Asad and RCB Diyala should be operational in November 2008 and March 2009, respectively, to include basing infrastructure.”
The detachments probably represent the initial cadre for planned (long-term) support, “reconnaissance,” and brigade special troops (headquarters) battalions. Also, the first training of Iraqi Security Forces in controlling strike aircraft has started under ISOF:
“To enhance air-to-ground coordination, the ISOF battalions are developing an Iraqi Tactical Air Controller (ITAC) program. The ITAC course will start in September 2008 and will provide ISOF tactical units the capability to coordinate precision fire from IqAF assets.”
Iraqi National Police (INP).
On Sept. 20, the Justice Battalion of the 3rd INP Division was reported to have participated in an air-assault and to have been “winged.” This is the first INP battalion, other than the INP Emergency Response Unit, reported as participating in air-assault operations and being winged. It is the first report of the Justice Battalion being operational. It is the first report that the Justice Battalion is no longer in Baghdad and has transferred to the 3rd INP Division. And it is the first report of 3rd INP Division involvement in an operation. This probably means the three INP separate battalions are to be the quick reaction airmobile battalions for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd INP Divisions. The 9010 report further reported that the new Abu Risha Brigade from Anbar would be the second brigade in the 3rd INP Division, joining the Al Askarian Brigade from Samarra.
At least four additional emergency battalions are reported forming or formed in Diyala. Combined with the three existing Emergency Response Units, this indicates that Ministry of Interior forces are permanently growing to divisional level in Diyala. Also noted in the 9010 report was a reference to Emergency Response Brigade Training Centers (No further information, request for information submitted), additional SWAT units are still forming in Karbala, Kirkuk, and Bayji, plus Iraqi trainers for Phase III (Carabinarie) training are being selected.
The INP page has been reorganized with national units listed under the Ministry of Interior Region in which they are stationed. The provincial Emergency Response Brigades, Emergency Response Units, Emergency Battalions, and Kurdish Special Police remain listed separately pending their transfer to “national” status.
Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement (DBE).
On Sept. 3, the first reference to an 11th DBE Brigade was made in reporting from Maysan Province. A request for information to clarify this report has not been responded to, however, other reporting indicates this is a new brigade. According to Voices of Iraq: “The Border Forces also embarked on setting up seven floating border checkpoints in the marsh areas in Missan province within the Border Guards Command’s 4th Zone.” This indicates new DBE units are being established in the Hawar marshes of Maysan under the DBE’s IV Region, and the latest 9010 report confirms that the DBE has added 10 battalions and a new brigade since May. Part of this is the start of the consolidation of Customs Police into the DBE, but the new brigade is probably in the marshes of Maysan Province.