Iraqi Security Forces Update

SW-iraqtroopstrengthoct.JPGWhile the debate continues over the number of “fully operational” (Level 1) Iraqi battalions, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to grow and take on a greater role in security operations.

The October 12 edition of This Week in Iraq reports on the progress of the Iraqi Security Forces. Their numbers have surpassed the 200,000, mark, with 106,112 serving under the Iraq Ministry of Interior and another 93,959 under the Ministry of Defense. The end state is projected to be 270,000 by the summer of 2006. Security Watchtower charts the progress.

The Coalition has turned over twenty seven Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) to Iraqi Security Forces. Most of the bases are located in the secure provinces of Iraq, and few have been turned over in the restive provinces of Anbar and Ninawa, the current focus of operations. This transition has freed up American troops to participate in the Anbar Campaign.

Iraqi units are now conducting over 25% of all security operations independently. Strategy Page has the breakdown of Iraqi Army divisions operating countrywide. There are ten divisions in the Iraqi Army at various stages of operational readiness, and each is participating in security operations throughout Iraq.

General Bob Scales (retired) has returned from a tour of Iraq and is optimistic about the future of the Iraqi Army. General Scales looks at the progress of the 9th Iraqi Mechanized Division, which is teamed up with the U.S. 1st Armor Division in raiding operations over the major road networks in the Baghdad area. The battalions of the 9th Iraqi Mechanized Division were built from scratch by the Iraqis themselves, They are likely at Level 2 or 3 status, which does not preclude them from fighting the insurgency. General Scales shares his views of the 9th Mech:

Boy, I got there, and I saw a unit that was only a year old. It was Iraq’s first mechanized unit. It hasn’t even been fully formed yet. It’s commanded by a General Bashar, who, a year ago, when they told to form the unit, he went out to an Iraqi junkyard, essentially a huge bone yard, if you will, and put together pieces of equipment to build 200 armored vehicles without any support from the United States, or American contractors, or the Iraqi government.

So the Iraqis themselves built this division. Seventy-five percent of this division is made up of veterans, of professional soldiers. I met the leadership. I met one brigade commander who had just come back from a firefight. He was in the hospital. And he came back with both of his hands bandaged just to have a chance to meet the Americans.

Embedded reporters Anna Badhken and Pamela Hess weigh in on the state of the Iraqi Security forces. Ms. Hess is with the troops of the 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment in Salman Pak, which lies in a dangerous region south of Baghdad. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior moved in forces last April, and with U.S. support, they are working to restore order. Ms. Badhken is in Tikrit, and discusses the status of units of the Iraqi army’s 4th division. In both cases, the Iraqi units are in the fight, but still are still reliant on U.S. forces to battle the insurgency. But the Iraqi Security forces are increasingly gaining the respect of the U.S. units serving with them, and most importantly, the respect of the local Iraqi citizens, which is improving their intelligence on the insurgency.

The mistakes being made in most media reporting on the Iraqi Security Forces are the assumptions that the Iraqi units can be quickly trained and immediately put into a position to handle security operations, and that “fully operational” units are required to provide for security. The building of the Iraqi Army and police forces is a long process, as creating experienced junior officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), the backbone of a professional army, requires time and patience. While these units might not be fully operational, they are clearly in the fight and are gaining valuable combat and leadership experience.

There is much work to be done, and the Iraqi Security Forces are only in their infancy. The progress being made at such an early stage in standing up the Iraqi Security Forces does not bode well for the prospects of the insurgency defeating the Iraqi government militarily.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • Building up the Iraqi Forces

    Yesterday MNSTC-I (“min-sticky”) announced that the Iraqi Forces had crossed a milestone. Iraqi security forces are now 200,000 strong.

  • cjr says:

    There are 10 iraqi army divisions:
    Division: province
    1st: IIF Force. Moves to where the action is. Currently in Anbar
    2nd: Niniveh(Mosul), Dahuk
    3rd: Niniveh (Tel Afar)
    4th: Salah ah din, Tamim, Sulymaniyah
    5th: Diyala
    6th: Bagdad, North Babil
    7th: Anbar
    8th: Wasit, South Babil, Al Qadisiyah, Karbala?, Najaf?
    9th(AKA 1st Mech Divsion): N Bagdad (Taji)
    10th: Basrah, Muthanna, DiQar, Maysan
    The MOI Police forces:
    3 Police Commandos brigades (Various locations)
    5 Public Order Police brigades(mostly Bagdad)
    1 Mechanized Police brigade(Bagdad)
    27 SWAT teams(platoons) (Various locations)
    1 Emergency Response unit(battalion)
    4 Special Police Border Secuity battalions
    Reports say the goal for the ISF is 270,000 by July2006. There also seems to be a longer term goal. Gen. Patraeus stated in a press briefing in Sept that there was a plan to go to 300,000 by Dec2006 and 344,000 by ???.
    This is the best analysis of the ISF I have seen. (76 pages!)

  • Bill Befort says:

    This wrangle about readiness of Iraqi battalions is another example of the way metrics can confound an issue. I was a squad leader in the 9th ID when, after being raised on the Kansas prairies, it deployed to the Mekong Delta in early 1967. In general we were rank amateurs. At that point I doubt my battalion could have rated a 2 on today’s readiness scale. Yet the 9th went on to become one of the best-regarded divisions in Vietnam.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thanks fo rhte correction on the # of divisions, cjr. Also, for the link to Mr. Cordesman’s work. I was not aware of that one.
    Bill Befort, an excellent point. It is unfortunate how this issue has been distorted to project failure.

  • Ike says:
    al Qaeda in Iraq denies authenticity of Zawahiri letter.

  • James says:

    Juan Cole has a very different opinion then you guys. I wanted to get a full range of opinions on the war so I spent some time on his site and dropped him a few lines. He believes there is no possible way the Shia and the Kurds with US help can beat the Sunni community. I asked him what he thought could stabilize Iraq and he believes only the Sunnis can do that after they put down the Shia and Kurds.
    You guys also talk about Zarqawi alot, but he doesn’t think he exists he believes that he is an invented construct of the occupation in order to score propaganda points in the US by making Iraq seem like part of the War on Terror and to scare the Shia into supporting the US presence in Iraq.
    Personally, I’m not sure Zarqawi exists, so I’d be reluctant to send a thousand Marines after him and to majorly inconvenience (and from the video on Aljazeerah, partially flatten) poor little Sadah.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    The ISF have their pride(as they should). They have two opportunities to prove themselves in the next 2 months. Pride goes a long,long way in combat effectiveness.

  • ghoullio says:

    either way, even if its not true, thats excellent psy/op on our part…

  • PeterArgus says:

    You guys also talk about Zarqawi alot, but he doesn’t think he exists he believes that he is an invented construct of the occupation in order to score propaganda points in the US by making Iraq seem like part of the War on Terror and to scare the Shia into supporting the US presence in Iraq.

    So who’s bombing all those Shia, James? Do you think the US is killing them as part of this propaganda? What is your evidence that Z-man doesn’t exist other than the words of Cole?

    I asked him what he thought could stabilize Iraq and he believes only the Sunnis can do that after they put down the Shia and Kurds.

    Yea I particularly like that “put down” part. I wouldn’t put it past Cole to call for genocide as a solution. After all it worked pretty well for 30 years for Iraq’s former leader didn’t it?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Sorry, but Juan Cole has been debunked so many times it stopped being funny.
    My child fully expects to redeploy to the “Sunni Triangle”. She finds Juan “humorous” if people didn’t believe his crap.
    I personnaly spent a long time in the Middle East long,long ago, and while not being a university professor, I am pretty sure I understand the culture better than Juan Cole.(I doubt he has spent the evening in a titty bar with “Senior Officials of a major Middle East country”)
    on the pride concept…do you think it was coincedental that Haifa Street was being looked after by the 82nd Airborne prior to the almost miraculous assumption of command by the Iraqi security forces?
    What effect do you think the 101st will have on the pride factor of Iraqi security forces?

  • Kenneth says:

    You really have to take what Juan Cole writes with a large grain of salt. He is knowledgeable, but extremely biased, and he has a track record of saying one thing one day and the opposite the next, all the while denying any contradiction. Lately, he has also been exhibiting seriously paranoid behavior.
    The real reason Cole believes Zarqawi doesn’t exist is because his existance undermines Cole’s meme of a legitimate Iraqi resistance to the “occupying” Americans. Zarqawi is the man at the nexus of Al Qaeda in Iraq, dissafected Sunnis, Salafist jihadis & Baathist hold-outs. Admitting the reality of Zaqawi would force Cole to reconsider his deeply cherished prejudices, something he is not intellectually capable of doing. So instead, he denies his existance and projects his delusion (“the denial of Zarqawi”), in negative form (“the invention of Zarqawi”), onto the Americans.
    Of course, should Zarqawi ever appear in full view and proclaim his nihilistic Islamist agenda for all to see, you can count on Cole jumping up to claim he saw him first.

  • Oded says:

    James, I wouldnt spend much time reading Juan Cole as according to Iraqpundit (an Iraqi blogger) he completely misrepresents events in Iraq and has a poor understanding of Iraqi society and culture despite his words to the contrary. Cole is simply a pompous tool of the left whose ideas are simply laughable.
    Exploring all perspectives is commendable, but I wouldnt waste my time on ‘professor’ Cole.
    Visit Iraqpundit to get an Iraqi’s perspective on Coles rantings.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Juan Cole also believes the Bush Administration, the CIA, Dan Darling, Iraq the Model, etc. has been coopted by the VLC (Vast Likud Conspiracy, AKA the Jews). If you love Jewish conspiracy theories, Juan Cole is your man – He’s the Fox Moulder of the Jewish Conspiracy Theorists. He’s also the president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). What a sad state of affairs.
    Soldier’s Dad,
    Very interesting point on ISF pride and the 82nd/101st, something I had not considered. No doubt this is a motivating factor to the IA.

  • Kenneth says:

    Dear Soldier’s Dad,
    As a father, I offer my best wishes and prayers for your child’s safety. She is a true hero.
    One more point on Juan Cole: In February 2003 he wrote in favour of the war to depose Saddam on account of his tyrrany. By Nov. 2003 Cole was writing that he was always against the war. Cole is, in addition to all else, a liar & hypocrite.

  • cjr says:

    Soldier’s Dad:
    on the pride concept: You may have it backwards: Pride is not the precusor to build a strong, competent organization. A person, competent in his skills and confident in his organization, DEVELOPS pride. Pride is the end result, not the precurser. So, what matters for the 82nd and 101 (or any organization doing the training) is not how much pride they have in themselves, it is how well they train their students. If they do a good job, and their students become good at their job, then the student will develop the pride themselves.

  • Iraq’s Security Forces Top 200,000

    More than 200,000 Iraqis are serving in Iraq’s security forces. An excellent graphic is here at the Security Watch Tower. The projected total will be end strength of 270,000 through the Ministry of Defense and the Interior. Its important to…

  • goesh says:

    IMHO the Z man is in Iran glued to a half dozen cell phones and laptops. It’s don’t ask, don’t tell with the imams there – he is some safehouse well guarded and well taken care of. His house is probably pinpointed and could be taken out with a missle/stealth at any time, but both sides know this is not going to happen. Some war on terrorism, eh?

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    Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday…

  • Super 6 says:

    on the pride concept:
    My son was with the 82nd on Haifa Street and later moved across the river to the Hotel District. The legacy the 82nd left the Iraqis with was “quick response with overwhelming firepower”. My son reports that the Iraqis “take away” from serving with the 82nd was aggressive show of force.

  • Robert M says:

    the following article was front page news in today’s local paper and was about 1st Brigade 6th Division:
    The author, Tom Lasseter posits two ideas. One, the army units are primiarily Shia or Kurds with few units truly integregated by ethnicity(Arab, Kurd, Turkomen) or religion(Shia vs Sunni). Despite my quick scanning of the site mentioned in Comment #1 I can not find any information to disprove this nor find any to confirm the status of the battalions comprising this brigade, i.e. level 1 ,et al. Two, the army units being primarily Arab Shia or Kurds are essentially using their training to prepare for a civil war on sectarian lines.
    The questions I have are one, are the units of the Iraqi Army as best as possible integregated along religious and ethnic lines? Two, how much concern is there among the coalition command that Lasseter is correct in his assumptions? Can you shed any light on these issues?

  • Tom W. says:

    #10 Kenneth
    I just wanted to commend you for providing such a clear explanation for one of the most depressing aspects of this war. You’re absolutely correct; if the antiwar crowd admits that Zarqawi is a murderous, sadistic bastard, he loses the mantle of righteous freedom fighter. If he is no longer a righteous freedom fighter, then the legitimacy of the entire Iraqi “resistance” is called into question, which in turn means that people must begin to question all of their assumptions about the war and… GEORGE W. BUSH! They can’t do that because it might set up a cascade effect, leaving them adrift, stripped of their life-long belief system. It’s very frightening that there are so many people–including respected academics in positions of responsibility–who will be utterly destroyed if they are forced to accept even one tiny sliver of reality. So what they do instead is simply say “I don’t believe it.” It’s the equivalent of covering their ears and going “La-la-la-la, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you.”

  • leaddog2 says:

    What none of the leftist naysayers like Cole and Lasseter are intelligent enough to understand is that there are VAST numbers of intermarried “Shia” AND “Sunni”. Talk of 20 % Shia, 20 % Kurd and 60 % Shia is overblown garbage. This is a culture where reasonable estimates of intermarriage are NORTH of 50%, but a recent census is not available. The best estimates are 20 years old, or older.

  • Marlin says:

    Robert M
    Two, how much concern is there among the coalition command that Lasseter is correct in his assumptions? Can you shed any light on these issues?
    I have been religiously reading Knight Ridder articles for the past year or more, including all of Tom Lasseter’s. If you are interested in doing the same, they can be found by daily checking at Latest Iraq Headlines.
    I hesitate to say that Tom Lasseter does not tell the truth. But from reading his articles over a long period of time, it is clear that he is viscerally opposed to the war, and slants/spins his stories to support that point of view.
    If you would like to test my conclusion, I suggest you do an Advanced News Search at using Tom Lasseter in ‘with all of the words’ and Knight Ridder in ‘Return only articles from the news source named’. If you read the articles that are returned you’ll find he never presents a balanced point of view (IMHO).

  • Justin Capone says:

    The most annoying thing I find about Cole is he really does want the Sunnis to stop the life out of the Shia and Kurds. His position on the war is that the Sunni minority are the only ones who can and should rule Iraq.
    He reminds me of a Wahhibist I talked to last year who was incredibly anti Jewish, anti Shia, and anti US.
    The Arab world turns a blind eye to Zarqawi’s suicide attacks on Shia, because it is for the greater good to them and that greater good is the return of Sunni minority rule.
    Also, I got to say Bill, this site gets better and better every day. You do great jobs with your reports.

  • MG says:

    #15 Goesh
    Let’s pretend Z-man IS stationary and located. Do you kill him, so that the thugs can coalesce around someone who is more strategically competent, or do you keep him in charge of an organization whose middle-management is progressively decimated, so that the public face of the thugs discredits the “resistance”?
    That’s right — you keep an odious figurehead in the news, not an unknown strategic genius. It helps collapse the capability, reputation, and public support for the thugs as quickly as possible, and over time saves lives of the innocent — and of coalition combatants.
    Some war on terrorism, indeed. Amazing how smart we Americans can be, eh?

  • Justin Capone says:

    In spite what some people in the media might think Zarqawi has handled the insurgency better then Zawahiri would have. His plan is simple and quite dangerious and that is bleed support for the war in the US by feeding the US media daily suicide attack. And, try to incite a civil war with the same attacks. He hasn’t managed the second, but the first he managed with MSM help big time. Bush’s approval on Iraq is now in the low 30s in some polls.
    Zarqawi knows if the Americans leave too early or a civil war occurs he wins either way.
    Hell, Zarqawi put himself on the international map with his beheadings and that led to massive funds coming in from all over the Arab world to him.
    Zarqawi may be a hot headed violent little a***ole, but he knows exactly how to play the mass media. If you listen to his speechs he constantly quotes the NY Times and Washington Post articles.

  • Question: Do these numbers being given take desertions into account? ISTR that there’s a something of a problem with police forces and to a lesser extent the Iraqi military keeping guys who have deserted on the payroll and inflating the numbers.

  • Media Lies says:

    Bill Roggios continues to be….

    ….the go to blog for military information on Iraq. Today’s article talks about Iraqi security force manpower levels, and the news is very encouraging.

  • cjr says:

    For the Army, see page 60 of this:
    AWOL rates are very low, most brigades are between 0-2%.

  • Robert M says:

    Do you really believe Bush’s poll numbers are simply a result of Iraq?

  • Kenneth says:

    Tom W.
    Gosh, thanks for your comment. I like your phrase, “the cascade effect”. It results in the all or nothing approach to the political discourse. I think it should be possible to criticize some policies without going totally into Bush-hatred rants. Sadly, that’s pretty much all we get.

  • Robert M says:

    thanks for the tip on Lassester


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