Independent Operations and the Iraqi Army

Nearly one year ago, the media questioned the “readiness” of the Iraqi Army and declared “few Iraqi battalions are operational.” This stemmed from Multinational-Forces Iraq’s attempts to establish metrics for the readiness of the Iraq military, and the media’s lack of understanding of the meaning of these metrics.

The media focused on “Level 1” battalions, units which could operate with complete independence from Coalition forces, and ignored the significance of Level 2 & 3 Iraqi Army units. Level 2 & 3 battalions lack the organic logistical capabilities (Level 2) or required Coalition forces to operate alongside in combat (Level 3). Level 2 units gather their own intelligence, conduct their own planning and are deemed “in the lead” during combat operations. Both Level 2 & 3 units are in the fight against the insurgency.

Late last summer, 36 Iraqi Army combat battalions were rated as Level 2. Less than one year later, 75 battalions are rated as in the lead, according to Major General Rick Lynch. About 30% of the company-sized operations and above are independent Iraqi Army operations, and about 50% are conducted by combined Iraqi and Coalition units. During combined operations, the Iraqi Army conducts the search, while Coalition forces provide the outer security cordon.

Two recent operations in and near Mosul highlight the increasing independence of the Iraqi Army: Operation Lion’s Hunt [May 3] and Operation Cool Spring VIII [May 10]. Designed to “introduce a strong Iraqi Security Force presence in the city’s diverse communities and clean out pockets of terrorists,” Lion’s Hunt was comprised of “nearly 1,500 Iraqi Soldiers and police officers,” – a battalion sized operation. The operation was an “Iraqi-planned effort” with “a small contingent of Task Force Band of Brother Soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team… assisting the mission by augmenting an outer security ring as the Iraqi forces.” And in a sign the Iraqi Security Forces understand the importance of the information aspect of the war, “local media were invited to accompany the mission.”

Cool Spring was conducted south of the city. “Troops from 3rd Brigade, 2nd IA Division planned and led the operation which included Soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team… The Iraqi brigade demonstrated their military planning skills by formulating the mission, issuing appropriate orders to its subordinate units, and overwatching the conduct of the operation.”

In Mosul, the Iraqi Army units are in the lead, but still lacking in the proper logistical support and heavy equipment. John Ford is in Mosul with the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Mosul, and reports the Iraqi Army and police are getting better equipment, “I’m up in Mosul with the 172nd and the AIF’s [Anti Iraq Forces] don’t mess with the Stryker’s boys much. They go after the IA [Iraqi Army] and IP’s [Iraqi Police] who are much softer but are getting harder with the equipment they are receiving. The MP’s [Military Police] are using the M1117 ASV [Guardian Armored Security Vehicle] as a fire support vehicle in their patrols and the IA’s are receiving those as well. Logistics is the limiting factor for the Iraqi folks as they are mostly tooth, very little tail.”

Over the past month, the Iraqi Army has assumed a greater role over security operations throughout the country. The 1st Brigade, 8th Division, recently took control of Najaf province. The 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, is conducting independent operations in a region in Diyala province. The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Division took over security in the majority Kirkuk. The 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division assumed responsibility for the region near Sinjar Mountain

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

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