Information on the Iraqi forces fighting in Fallujah is difficult to come by as the media is focusing on the front line battles, which are mainly conducted by American soldiers and Marines. The Iraqi Army and National Guard have been widely criticized by the American media for problems with training and morale. Most recently, before the operation to take Samarra in October, almost half of one of the Iraqi battalions (about 300 of 750 men) deserted the unit after a suicide bombing that killed an officer of the battalion. The remaining Iraqi battalions, almost 2,000 soldiers, did fight well. The Iraqi insurgents are intentionally attacking fledgling Iraqi formations to destroy their will to fight and break the Coalition, as the future of the country is dependent on its security.
The opening moves of the assault on Fallujah were conducted by members of the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion in conjunction with American Special Forces, which included the seizure of the main hospital and the two bridges spanning the eastern run of the Euphrates River. According to CENTCOM, The Iraqi Army (referred to as the Iraqi Intervention Force in the release) has provided five battalions in the attack. Four battalions operated in conjunction with American forces, while one battalion operated as an independent fighting force.
The 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade of the Iraqi Intervention Force attacked the city as an independent battalion, maneuvering under its own control, but in coordination with the multinational effort. The 1st Battalion is now in control of its own sector in the city.
The 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade of the IIF attacked and seized the Hydra Mosque along with U.S. Marines of Regimental Combat Team 7.
The IIF’s 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, is attacking targets along with U.S. Marine forces from the 1st RCT.
The 5th Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the Iraqi Army seized Al Tawfiq Mosque with U.S. Marines from the 7th RCT.
The 6th Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the Iraqi Army is manning vehicle check points along roads in the heart of the city alongside of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
The Iraqi Police Service’s Emergency Response Unit is also at the Hydra Mosque with IIF forces.
The 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade of the Iraqi Intervention Force is likely operating in the Jolan neighborhood of Fallujah as an independent Iraqi unit is reported to have taken control of the area (see map in this post). Iraqi Security Forces are active elsewhere, including operations in Baghdad.
The Ministry of the Interior’s 3rd Police Commando Battalion conducted a cordon-and-search sweep operation through Baghdad’s Amiriyya district today with the Iraqi National Guard’s 303rd Battalion and multinational force elements, seizing weapons and explosives in the home-to-home searches.
Tadek Markowski, an embedded reporter in Fallujah, states a radio interview that the Iraqi forces are performing well, committed to the fight and gaining battlefield experiences in their fights over the past six months. Most importantly, the Iraqi Army appears to be developing a core of NCOs (non commissioned officers), the backbone of successful armies.
HAMISH ROBERTSON: Now the record of the newly trained Iraqi troops over the last 12 months has not been a good one, but these troops apparently have been given fairly intensive training. Do you know how they’ve been acquitting themselves?
TADEK MARKOWSKI: From what I’m hearing, they’ve been acquitting themselves rather well. I mean, 12 months ago they weren’t the same outfit really. 12 months ago they were raw recruits who were probably just hoping to get a pay check at the end of the week and then spend the weekends with their families. This time around, they know that things are a bit more serious than that – that the Americans just aren’t a cash cow.
They’re here to fight and they have fought in Samarra, in Najaf and now in Fallujah and those previous encounters have hardened them somewhat, given them a bit of experience under fire and they know what to expect now. And the number of troops that are running away or not turning up for the fight has decreased somewhat.
So they tend to be they’re developing also that NCO (non commissioned officer) regime within these ranks where it didn’t exist before. So they seem to be tightening up as a fighting unit and doing quite well by all accounts.
The development of the Iraqi Army, National Guard, police and security forces are crucial to success in Iraq. We can continue to smash insurgent strongholds such as Fallujah, but unless the Iraqis can maintain order, the cities and towns of the Sunni Triangle will be susceptible to falling back into chaos. The performance of the Iraqi Security Forces over the past few months gives hope that they have turned the corner and are emerging as an effective fighting force. If Belmont Club’s prediction in The River War of a sustained operation to destroy the insurgency throughout the Sunni Triangle is correct (and I think it is), these Iraqi forces will be in need over the next sixty days.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.