Nearly all reporting on the Iraqi Security Forces falls into two categories, what is known and what we think we know. These reports include The Long War Journal‘s Iraqi Security Force Order of Battle and related articles. As a general once said, “Tell me what you know. Tell me what you think you know. Tell me what you don’t know. And tell me which is which.” This article will address some of the major gaps in the public knowledge of future developments in the Iraqi forces, and contains a check-list of major missing and unknown Iraqi Security Force components. It should be considered a sampling and not all-inclusive.
Iraqi Air Force
While the composition of the air elements planned for the Iraqi Air Force is fairly clear, the makeup of the air defense forces is not. The only indication of the potential acquisition of surface-to-air missiles was a mention in a Ministry of Defense shopping trip to Europe over a year ago. Most countries have air defense forces to provide coverage so as to concentrate their air elements on offensive employment. Those forces are usually either part of the air force or a separate service.
Iraqi Navy and Marines
The Iraqi Navy patrol and support elements through 2010 are fairly clear and recent notices indicate a plan to double the patrol boat elements. However, there are no missile-armed coastal defense elements or vessels. Some form of missile-armed vessels and possibly coastal defense systems are to be expected. To date, no such vessels have been identified for purchase.
The plan to grow the Iraqi Marines is clear up until 2010, after which it is unclear if they plan to expand further. The expansion of the Navy indicates that the Marines will likewise expand. Historically, the old Iraqi Navy had two brigades. This was to provide Marine forces for operations in the marshes as well as for coastal defense and maritime operations.
Iraqi Army’s divisional structure, identifications, locations, and planned numbers are fairly clear. What is not clear at this level is how many and what types of divisional and corps artillery components and equipment are planned. To date, the only divisional artillery components that have been identified are mortars.
While a rough distribution of the existing and planned divisions among the future four corps exists, this will probably change and the designations of those future corps are not publicly known.
Also missing is information on the numbers and composition of corps and army troops. The US Army usually has a mix of sustainment, artillery, engineer, air defense, military police, aviation, and cavalry brigades. While the Iraqi Army is being modeled on the US format, the Iraqis do have their own preferences.
Prior to 1991, the Iraqi Army included an independent mechanized or a tank brigade and two commando brigades in each corps. The only corps troops elements identified to date are the 1st Infrastructure Engineer Battalion and the Presidential Brigade. In the case of the Presidential Brigade, little data is publicly available beyond that it is to be a five-battalion mix of armor, motorized, and light infantry. The projected Iraqi Air Force elements do point toward the addition of an aviation brigade supporting each corps and one more for the Iraqi Ground Force Command.
Iraqi Special Operations and the Counter Terrorism Bureau
There is a 250 percent variance in the estimate of total Iraqi special operations forces. A minimum of two and a maximum of five divisions are estimated, depending on how many elements are built or transferred from other commands. The Ministry of Interior retains control of the National Emergency Response Brigade, separate from the Counter Terrorism Bureau. While this element probably will join the Counter Terrorism Bureau, the final strength of these forces is not clear.
Iraqi Ministry of Interior
The Ministry of Interior Regions (Corps) troops are not formed or clearly determined. Additionally, the five regions are not balanced in area, population, or forces. This indicates that the five regions will be or are being reorganized. But it is not clear how the areas and forces will be changed.
The Ministry of Interior has announced plans to form an aviation squadron of helicopters to support operations throughout the country. The types of helicopters being reviewed for this squadron indicate it is intended to support special operations forces. One squadron is not nearly enough capability for that role and the other support roles within the Ministry of Interior. This indicates an intention for the Ministry of Interior to establish its own aviation squadrons, but no further data on the size and composition of this force is publicly known.
Iraqi National Police
The size of the Iraqi National Police is estimated as a minimum of nine divisions. At least three of these divisions will be mechanized. Depending on how many of the other Ministry of Interior police paramilitary units are absorbed by the National Police, the Iraqi National Police probably will grow to at least 12 divisions. These forces have a secondary role as infantry divisions for external defense, which indicates they will require some artillery and additional sustainment capacity. That additional capability may be part of the force or separate Iraqi Army augment brigades.
Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement
The Department of Border Enforcement’s five regions are still being built up. Their current force mix is unbalanced with regions having two to four brigade equivalents each. This indicates they will reorganize as they fill out. Also, like the National Police, these five divisions are used as infantry forces for external defense, which requires some artillery and additional sustainment capacity. Like the National Police, the additional capability may be part of the force or separate Iraqi Army augment brigades.
Iraqi Facilities Protection Service
The Facilities Protection Service has 98,000 personnel or approximately six to eight divisions worth of personnel. With the exception of the Oil Police Directorate, the organization of the Facilities Protection Service is not publicly known. It is known that forces are being trained and organized for guarding the International Zone, the National Bank, and for use guarding transportation assets, but no structure or order of battle for these forces (or others not reported on) is known.
Even the Oil Police’s known structure is limited to the existence and locations of its current 10 battalions and that they are growing to 22 battalions over the next three years. This growth is to replace the Iraqi Army’s 12th Division. Its structure above battalion and the organizational structure of the battalions are not publicly known.
While most of the current Iraqi Security Force has been identified, much of the future components planned are still not publicly known. Each of the above major categories could easily rate a one to two page line-item check-list of questions. Some of the gaps in information exist because the decisions have yet to be made by the Iraqis. What is known is that the current Iraqi Security Forces have more than 40 divisions worth of forces, but are missing major components. Those missing components are to be built by 2020.
Related articles on the development of the Iraqi Security Forces:
• Iraq strengthens the Counter Terrorism Bureau – Sept. 10, 2008
• Iraqi Security Forces develop logistics capabilities – Sept. 22, 2008
• Iraq announces plan to expand the Air Force – Nov. 6, 2008
• Iraq develops its light combat divisions – Nov. 20, 2008
• Iraqi Army develops its light armored forces – Nov. 27, 2008
• Iraqi Army develops the heavy mechanized and armored forces – Dec. 3, 2008
• Iraq develops the National Police mechanized forces – Dec. 10, 2008
Iraqi military plans major arms purchase – Dec. 12, 2008