The Iraqi Army and the MTT in Khalidiya

Prepping for a night patrol into Khalidiya. Click image to view.

Successes and shortcomings in the 3/3-1 of the Iraqi Army

KHALIDIYA, IRAQ: This post discusses the successes and setbacks with the 3/3-1 “Snake Eaters” of the Iraqi Army in the Habbaniyah-Khalidiya region. Many of the successes and problems experienced with the 3/2-1 Iraqi Army in Fallujah are present here with the 3/3-1 in the Habbaniyah-Khalidiya region. See The Military Transition Teams and the Development Iraqi Army to compare and contract the two battalions.

In November and December of 2005, I embedded in the Qaim region with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, which partnered with the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Division of the Iraqi Army, as well as the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines in the Haditha Triad, which partnered with the 7th Division, the youngest formation in the Iraqi Army. The Marines and Iraqi soldiers partnered with a platoon of each and lived in Battle Positions, forward bases inside the cities and towns in western Anbar province.

In December of 2006, I embedded with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Iraqi Army and its Marine Military Transition Team in Fallujah (as well as the Iraqi Police in Fallujah). This past week, I’ve embedded with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division its joint Army and Marine Military Transition Team in the Habbaniyah region. The Military Transition Teams are small groups of Marines (teams of about 15 Marines and soldiers) that embed in at the battalion level to advise, mentor and train the Iraqi Army as it works to achieve operational independence.

A Jundi in the turret of an Iraqi Humvee. Click image to view.

The shift from partnering with Iraqi battalions to the implementation of the transition teams in one year is dramatic, and there are both surprising developments and disappointing setbacks. Developing an Army from scratch is a difficult and time consuming process (building an Army from scratch a process and not an event, as Glenn Reynolds would say). The Army must first learn to crawl, then walk, then run. After viewing the Iraqi Army in Anbar over the past few months, I estimate they are somewhere between the crawling and walking phases, perhaps holding on to the coffee table while taking those first steps.

Iraqi Army Successes

Tactically Proficient The 3/3-1 manages a complex battlespace effectively, and is prepared to push out further into the cities to extend its influence. The MTT trainers believe they are more than ready. The 3/3-1 has run numerous effective operations, and conducts missions such as complex ambushes, cordon and search operations and night patrols. A recent cordon in Sadiqaya is believed to have netted 3 senior local al Qaeda leaders. The battalion scout were the best Iraqi troops I have encountered in Anbar province. The Snake Eaters tactical proficiency can be chalked up to several factors: this is one of the oldest units in the new Iraqi Army, with roots back into Saddam’s Army; strong leadership; extensive combat experience and a strong esprit de corps.

Relationship with Police The 3/3-1 works closely with the local Iraqi Police in the region. The Snake Eaters refer to the local police as “our wild little brothers,” according to Major West. Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed echoed this sentiment. The Iraqi Police have a firm presence in Civil and Coolie Camps (with 1,000 police) and work closely with the Army. The 3/3-1 are preparing to establish police stations in Khalidiya and Sadaqiya.

Intelligence network The Iraqi Army’s ability to speak the language and understand the local customs and culture cannot be understated when it comes to developing local intelligence networks. “No matter how superior we are tactically to the Iraqi Army, we can’t make up for their ability to develop their local networks,” said Major West.

The Snake Eaters prep for a patrol. Click image to view.

Motivated, Initiative The jundi of the 3/3-1 do not lack a will to fight or a willingness to take the initiative. As the nighttime raid and occupation of homes in Khalidiya demonstrates, the Iraqi Army in this region is quite willing to conceive, plan and execute operations independently, and is taking greater risk without Coalition backup, despite a lack of heavy weapons and air support.

Leadership There are several officers in the battalion that are very effective in both the line infantry companies and in the staff work. The MTT is working to develop the NCO corps, the backbone on a modern, professional army. NCOs take the initiative on patrols, but do not operate in the same leadership capacity as U.S. Army and Marine NCOs.

Basic Maintenance The 3/3-1 performs its own “level 1” maintenance tasks on its vehicles effectively, said Major Perez. Level 1 maintenance includes tasks like oil changes, changing tires, and replacing basic parts.

Old duece-and-a-halfs are in the Iraqi Army order of battle. Click image to view.

Iraqi Army Shortcomings

Logistics Like in Fallujah, the Iraqi logistics is failing to properly supply the combat battalions. The 3/3-1 finds it difficult to obtain uniforms, boots, cold weather gear, batteries, fuel and even meat from higher up. The system is set up to “micromanage the supply process,” according to Major Perez. A supply request must filter from the battalion, up to brigade, division and finally the Ministry of Defense. Also, there is no system, either hand receipts or computer, to track supply requests.

Several theories on the supply problems exists, which include abject corruption in the MoD and at the division and brigade staffs, and a cultural inclination to horde supplies. The hording of supplies gives the person in possession “power” as he has items in need (I have seen this attitude to a lesser degree in supply rooms in the U.S. Army). But remember the 3/3-1 MTTs only see this at the battalion level, and are not privy to the inner workings at brigade level and up. The MTTs are forced to provide materials to the Iraqi soldiers. “We want to teach them to be independent and go through their supply system, but we can’t wait for that to work,” said Major Perez.

Fuel This is a subset of the supply problem, but deserves special mention due to circumstances that just occurred with the 3/3-1. On January 1st, U.S. units were directed to stop distributing fuel to the Iraqi Army. The idea is to force the Iraqis to solve the fuel resupply problem. The fuel supply is controlled at the brigade level, and the battalions (which run about 24 Humvees, plus other vehicles) are only allotted enough fuel to run their generators. On the 19th, the order was enforced. The 3/3-1 is now starved for fuel. This is directly impacting operations, as their vehicles cannot move troops into positions throughout the area of operations. The choice to conduct a foot patrol into the city the other night was driven by the lack of available fuel. “All it takes is for a couple of days of us off the streets for [the insurgents] to get bold and reassert themselves,” said Major West.

Pay Again, like in Fallujah, there are serious pay problems in the Iraqi Army. Pay is erratic, and some soldiers have not received pay for several months. Several dozen soldiers are currently “on strike” due to pay issues, which again impacts operations.

Undermanned The 3/3-1 is currently slotted at about 800 soldiers, but there are only 600 serving in the battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed directly attributes this to the pay and supply problems that plague the Iraqi Army. These problems are directly affecting recruiting at retention of troops, said LtCol Mohammed, which in turn negatively impacts the fight against the insurgency.

Pre-mission planning. Click image to view.

Heavy Weapons & Combat Support The Iraqi Army battalions in this region do not possess heavy weapons and combat support assets such as tanks, armored fighting vehicles, mortars, cannon, artillery, UAV support, helicopters, engineers, Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams, and higher level maintenance at the battalion or brigade levels. The 3/3-1 is working to develop a weapons company, and also has EOD units in training. The EOD, helicopter, UAV and maintenance support are more important than armor, artillery and mortars at this stage as the insurgents are not heavily armed in this region.

Higher Level Maintenance The more complex vehicle maintenance tasks (Level 2) have been contracted out to a company called National. Major Perez, the MTT logistics officer, said National is not fulfilling its obligations to repair the vehicles. National claims parts for the vehicles are not available. Major Perez said he has been at the garage and seen vehicles sitting in the bays not being worked on. The Iraqis are hesitant to turn their vehicles in to National lest they not get them back.

Leadership Development While the Iraqis possess good leaders, they still retain the top-heavy Soviet leadership system which places all of the responsibility in the hands of the officer corps. This makes them vulnerable if key leaders are killed. “There is no incentive structure to develop subordinates,” said Major West.

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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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20 Comments

  • Embed reports: Good news, bad news

    Embedded milbloggers are providing invaluable first-hand reports of the military’s successes and setbacks in helping stand up the Iraqi Army. Bill Roggio reports on successes: In November and December of 2005, I embedded in the Qaim region with the 3rd…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    600 of 800.
    Add 25% leave status and on-hand is 450…

  • Web Reconnaissance for 01/22/2007

    A short recon of what痴 out there that might draw your attention.

  • bfartan says:

    Bill,
    Can’t we set up MTT teams at the brigade and division level working with the Iraqis to build/clean up their logisitics operations? And other organizational issues?
    Maybe there should be bloggers embedding with them to report how things are going on there?

  • DJ Elliott says:

    bfartan
    There are MiTTs at Bde, Div, IGFC and MoD levels…

  • bfartan says:

    DJ, perhaps Bill could embed with or at least talk to those MTTs at Bde, Div, IGFC and MoD levels. If that broken supply chain is not getting fixed, all these fighters being raised will just be wasted. As will the “surge”.
    It would not be too different from those “investigative reports” you see in consumer affairs reporting back home. You know, why isn’t the customer getting the product/service promised. Maybe Bill can help us see why, where, and how.
    I’m hoping this information can give those of us who want America to win something substantive to use in blogosphere discussions, to influence media coverage where possible, and or to lobby our elected officials.

  • sangell says:

    I’m afraid the Snake Eaters are on their own.
    America is not to take more 20 dead soldiers on
    Saturday.
    Whatever the problems of the Iraqi military they
    are going to own them.
    Goodbye,farewell,goodluck.
    The next time you see American military power it
    will be a blinding light.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    bfarton,
    “If that broken supply chain is not getting fixed, all these fighters being raised will just be wasted. As will the “surge”.”
    It takes a lot of long hard grueling work to change culture and attitudes. There isn’t a quick fix.
    Counter insurgency is about 100,000 tiny, almost imperceptable steps every day.
    Rome didn’t get built in a day, attempting to build Rome in a day is the surest road to failure.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    sangell
    – We spent 10 years with significant forces in Vietnam.
    – We lost ~58,000 in those 10 years.
    – 5800 per year average or ~112 per week KIA.
    – Including accidents we have lost a little over 3000 in four years in Iraq.
    In 3 years of Korea we lost ~54000. You do the math.
    D-day (one day of WWII) in Normandy cost us more than we have lost in Iraq in four years.
    We lost over 5000 KIA in the last 11 hours of WWI after the armistice was already signed…
    Only the historicaly ignorant considers our loss rate to be high.
    ~17,000 a year die in the US due to DUI.
    ~16,000 murders per year in the US.
    The only thing the id10ts in the press and others that play up the KIAs is insult their memories and demonstrate their total ignorance of warfare…
    On the subject of logistics, most ME countries are a mess of corruption. That will take a long time. So long as the IA Teeth stands up, and so far it is, then we will win this.
    A few firsts that are being overlooked in the rush to claim defeat of the new OP in Baghdad:
    – First formal Iraqi Joint IA/INP Field Commands: Districts. Prior to this INP and IA worked informaly together at Field Command level but, not formally.
    – First Iraqi Joint IA/INP Divisions: East and West Baghdad. Formed from INP HQ pers-prob the Div staff that was not purged and from 6th IAD. Prior to this INP and IA never were under a Joint Divisional Command.
    – First Iraqi Corps Command: Baghdad Command (Corps). At least two Divisions and Bdes for four and not the IGFC although elements will come from IGFC/MoI/MoD Staffs. Prior to this the Iraqi Divisions were either under MND/MNF/MNC or Directly under Iraqi Ground Forces Command. Sectors did not have organized HQs and were not run as Corps.

  • bfartan says:

    Soldier’s Dad,
    The Snake Eaters’ success in kicking ass and taking names should be followed up by logistics reform. If we’re going to build effective Iraqi units, let’s not stop at just battlecraft and field operations. Let’s use the success in the field to build the esprit de corps and a new unit culture that will also incorporate and transform the rear echelon units.
    I agree it’s not easy stuff, but the accomplishments so far means they’ve got some momentum. With the first 1000 steps taken, it’s merely 99000 more to go….

  • Michael says:

    Bfartan,
    None of this is solved overnight, or in a few months. For every legitimate Iraqi Military Leader(across multiple rankings Commissioned and Non), I’m speculating(wildly) there are several corrupt. Plus it is a combination of problems. Some of it culture related, some of it our high expectations of westernized business practices. I have no military experience, so not sure how it compares. Its all confusing to us since we’ve never grown up in such a society. What we take for granted in the West, is new to people in Iraq.
    I think Bill hit the nail on the head with the description of the Soviet style governing leftover from the Baathist period, especially a rule by fear and nothing happens without severe oversight restrictions. We forget there are communist ideas leftover and that Saddam was fond of Stalin’s control mechanisms. They’re only now learning how to let go of some control and “delegate” responsibility, plus learn how to control corruption.
    Their culture moves slower than ours traditionally, not just thru technology.
    To change corruption, cultural stigmas, attitudes of timely actions and minds for responsibility, it takes a generation at the very least if not several.
    There’s a reason we have movies about Al Capone in America, Bonnie and Clyde, the street gangs of NYC, Italian Mafia, etc. The Gang controlled Unions. Its not as if our country of immigrants were saints long ago. Rule of Law took many decades. And as pointed out there are over 16,000 murders per year. Europe still looks upon us as the redheaded stepchild.
    No one is saying these problems do not need addressing. That is the reason Bill pointed them out in his report. They need highlighting for future efforts in the Iraqi Military and government. We can write our congress, our President to put pressure on these kind of issues.
    But it will still take time. One of the things that gets me angry with some Congress members and the media about the daily death watch without any mention of our successes is they fail to recognize the significance of showing success we are making. Or they say certain people do not care or cannot understand, like our Secretary of State.
    I’m sure she’s shed tears over these issues. I know I’ve teared up at times. Its a war. We need to stop fighting ourselves internally and fight together against the common enemy.
    There’s a huge difference between civilians being murdered for example in our own country without any training to defend themselves, without a gun, and soldiers that are trained for battle and volunteer to go into war. Can you imagine if every single day on the news you were beat down with how many senseless, terrible murders and accidents happen in our nation? What if the news led off all the time with another 170 people died in America today due to murder? And another 200 died due to alcohol. 1000 homes burned down, 100 children died due to abuse, 150 died due to drug overdose… and they listed this every single day? Without listing the positive steps being taken in the cities, nation, etc.
    I’m sure we’re having similar problems in Afghanistan as well. Do we just up and leave out of there too? No. We have to continue to support these young governments, add pressure when required, but not so much as to make them fall and have more chaos all over again. And while there’s sectarian violence, danger and some chaos in different areas, progress is being made despite all of these issues.
    The military issues of payment do need to be addressed. It is one area the government must improve upon quickly, no doubt. The logistics will come little by little as they learn, as they mobolize, as currupt leaders are replaced with new leaders.
    In the days of the wild, wild west, many people failed to get paid. Raids, bank robberies, stage coach holdups. Iraq is a modern version of the wild west with more dangerous weapons.
    Its going to take time to round up all the different elements, for a silent majority to feel power in their own hands to stand up for themselves. Many millions are already standing up every day. Hundreds of thousands have volunteered and understand what is at stake.
    There is good/bad in Iraq today. The big difference is today we know the full score by Freedom of Press in Iraq. Saddam never allowed while thousands died by disease, torture, and criminal activity. For the first time Iraqis are dealing with freedom too.
    Its going to take time to solve all these problems even with the best leaders.

  • Mitch Wander says:

    Bill,
    I was on a Brigade MiTT in Iraq last year as a logistics advisor to an infantry unit. The fuel situation was frustrating for the MiTTs and US maneuver units – as it was necessary for the US to run the logistics for two entire armies (US and Iraqi). There have been public reports of the fuel cutoff happening for months now. Something has to change. It’s not sustainable for the US to be a fuel provider to another Army, particularly one that needs to build its logistics capabilities in order to enhance its own combat readiness.
    Mitch

  • bfartan says:

    Michael,
    I guess the irony in my final sentence is not sufficiently apparent. I hope you realize that we are in agreement. You cover a lot of the same points I raise when I’m discussing Iraq.
    I am as unhappy with our press and Congress as you. The MSM has for the most part failed to help the US public understand how complicated things are in Iraq and why we appear stuck. I have no argument with what you’ve stated, but just look at how much space you need just to touch on some of the significant factors. Only now has the MSM even started to get beyond the “more Americans killed today” storyline. Now they’re up to “more Americans killed today amidst awful sectarian violence in Iraq”. Bill is doing fabulous work, filling the void the MSM has left. I may be wishing too hard for the shortcomings to make it into the MSM newscycle and even affect proceedings in Congress.
    If Iraq is to have a military that can function as independently as our does, they’re going to have to develop/adopt attitudes compatible with ours. I don’t need the whole country that way (for now), I’ll settle for the Army. We expect professional logistics, subordinate initiative, and individual merit. This requires a change in behavior, and, damn, does changing behavior take time. But I’m hoping that it will get into the unit culture since we are basically making over the entire Iraqi military. And I’m also hoping some military institutions are created to amplify the good leaders that we do find. This is very hard to see without being there, and that’s why I’m asking if Bill (or someone else) can report.

  • BadTux says:

    Amateurs talk about tactics. Professionals talk about logistics. This is FUBAR, SNAFU, and every other acronym you can think of. An army without logistics isn’t an army. It is an armed rabble, of little use to anybody.

    Frankly, the logistical situation in Iraq has troubled me since the beginning of this thing. The frank fact of the matter is that we lack the airlift, sealift, and trucking capacity to sustain the number of troops necessary to pacify Iraq. We *can’t* arm the Iraqi “army” (rabble) with heavier weapons. We have no logistical tail capable of supplying them. They can’t arm themselves or provide themselves with their own fuel. They lack the military trucks and military cargo planes to truck in supplies from the nearest “safe” ports or refineries, and civilian shippers won’t come anywhere near them because it’s a freakin’ war zone for cryin’ out loud. This is a logistical nightmare and all anybody talks about is tactics. Amateurs. Feh.

    I mean, c’mon. You don’t think Petraeus, who is one of the sharpest cookies on the ground there in Iraq, cut off the Iraqi fuel supply *voluntarily*, do you? No. He cut it off because he needs that fuel for his *own* troops. Because with all the attrition, with all the trucks blown up by IED’s, all the civilian truck drivers who refuse to haul fuel into Iraq because they (justifiably) are scared of getting blown up, there just isn’t enough fuel trucks left to haul enough fuel from the nearest operating refineries (in Kuwait) to supply both the American army and the Iraqi army.

    None of this is irretreivable. But as long as the Joint Chiefs are ejaculating all over models of F-22’s and F-35’s that we don’t need instead of over military airlift, sea lift, and ground transportation capacity that we do need, the war is unwinnable. I guess buying fuel trucks doesn’t enrich enough defense contractors or something. But without logistics, it doesn’t matter how brilliantly Petraeus conducts operations, there just is not the capacity to bring the effort to bear needed to make any significant gains. And asking the Iraqi Army to “stand up” right now, when their logistical tail is virtually non-existent, is like asking a quadriplegic to stand up. It can’t happen. There’s no “there” there.

    Will this situation get fixed? The Bush Administration’s actions so far don’t reassure me. I wasn’t a supporter of the war from the beginning (I felt it was a distraction from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the folks who attacked us on 9/11 were — and still are — hiding), but once the first tanks crossed the border, I hoped that the administration would do it right and win, since the alternative is disasterous. Sadly, I was to be disappointed. It’s as if whenever there was a wrong action to take, they took it, whether it was disbanding the Iraqi army, dismissing Arabic interpreters for the sin of being gay, or the de-Baathification that went beyond the de-Nazification of Germany in the post WWII era and basically destroyed all the government ministries that handled fundamental infrastructure like roads, sewer, water, and electricity and thereby destroyed any popular support we had in Iraq (it’s hard to feel good about being liberated when you’re dying of water-borne illnesses because the water purification plants aren’t operating). Will the Bush administration spend the capital needed to get the Iraqi army a logistical tail? Or will Dear Leader trot out yet another propaganda-fest to delay defeat until he’s out of office, at which time the defeat can be blamed on his Democratic successor? History isn’t encouraging here… especially since the $#%@ amateurs keep talking about tactics, when what they need to be talking about is logistics.

    -BT

  • Tom W. says:

    “Or will Dear Leader trot out yet another propaganda-fest to delay defeat until he’s out of office, at which time the defeat can be blamed on his Democratic successor?”
    It’s hard to take people seriously when they sound like tape recorders spooling out utterly unoriginal thoughts in totally hackneyed, brainlessly partisan phraseology.
    Next, you’ll talking about “drinking the Kool Aid.”
    Never heard THAT one before.

  • BadTux says:

    Well, it is hard to take our political leaders seriously when all they propose is meaningless actions that appear to have minor operational significance. We need to either cut bait or get out when it comes to Iraq, and a minor troop surge to the level of 1 year ago is not going to do the trick unless we have a serious Iraqi army to take on the remainder of the job, which has been estimated by some military men I respect highly to require around 500,000 troops total (roughly 150,000 in the U.S. Army and 350,000 in the Iraqi army) to pacify the country.

    The problem is that putting together an Iraqi army of 350,000 troops which is operationally effective (note the phrase “operationally effective”, which is key), complete with mechanized transport and aviation and artillery and etc., is impossible without a logistical tail. This requires a significant logistical arm to the Iraqi military complete with its own transport, including those all-important fuel transports, because civilian transport will refuse to enter what they consider to be a combat zone. It also requires that the Iraqi Army actually have the money to fill these transports with fuel, food, and ammunition, which is another problem right now since the insurgents have proven disturbingly effective at reducing oil exports below even the low level of the Food for Oil program and thus the Iraqi government is essentially broke.

    The alternative is to supply the Iraqi army with our own logistical tail. But we don’t have the logistical capability to do that sufficiently to provide the Iraqis with the organic capability to conduct significant large-scale operations. As I noted, Petraeus is no idiot, and he knows that cutting off the Iraqi army’s fuel will basically render it immobile and operationally ineffective due to the lack of a logistical tail on the Iraqi side. He wouldn’t be doing that if he didn’t need the fuel himself. This tends to indicate that the logistical situation continues to deteriorate much as the equipment situation continues to deteriorate (basically every piece of operational mechanized equipment in the U.S. Army is already in Iraq or Afghanistan — the rest is in repair depots scattered across the globe, waiting for repair). I understand that the Army is stating that they have over $120 billion dollars worth of maintenance backlog needed to get the Army back to full operational status, due to the wear and tear caused by the sands of Iraq. That wear and tear affects all equipment, including the vital transports that we depend on as the last leg of the logistical tail for our troops.

    Sadly, this administration’s actions over the past three years of the Iraq occupation have been so woefully inept as to convince the majority of Americans that this administration cannot achieve victory. I believe that the majority of the American people would support a serious attempt to stabilize Iraq, and I believe that the 2006 election was primarily a referendum on the credibility of the Bush Administration rather than a referendum on whether the American public would support a credible plan to stabilize Iraq. The problem is that because of all the many mis-steps and all the many statements that the Bush administration has made about “the insurgency is in its last throes” and so forth (“last throes” that last for years aren’t exactly “last” throes), the credibility of the Bush Administration is somewhere lower than the credibility of late-night exercise equipment vendors. And proposing an un-serious plan that cannot succeed because there is not a sufficient logistical tail for it to succed is hardly going to resurrect the Bush administration’s credibility. It makes them look like fools, frankly. Or amateurs. After six years in office, they’re not supposed to be amateurs. It certainly doesn’t add to their credibility, in any event.

    So tell me: If our President trotting out a plan that any military expert in the Pentagon knows can’t succeed due to the logistical problems of the Iraqi army isn’t a cheap PR stunt, what is it? Curious penguins want to know!

  • DJ Elliott says:

    BadTux
    You would be more credible if you used facts.
    325,000 is the IA/INP/IP/DBE combined.
    Cops (National and local), Border Guards and Army.
    – Of the 134,000 Iraqi Army, 15,000 are logisitcs stood up/being stood up.
    – More are to follow (that is why they are standing up 3 additional IA Div HQs and only 5 Brigades- support elements are primarily divisional).
    – That was started Aug2005. Prior to that, the Teeth were the emphasis and we supplied the tail.
    E.G. US Brigade is 3500 personnel;
    forces in Iraq were (prior to augment) 15 US combat Brigades and 142,000 US personnel; 15×3500=52,500; What do you think the other 90,000 US personnel not assigned to combat Brigades are for?
    I suspect 100,000+ support personnel (US/IA) is more than sufficient supply for the 170,000 Teeth (200,000 if you include INP/DBE).
    This is not high intensity conflict, this is COIN (low intensity conflict).

  • BadTux says:

    DJ, I do not possess current numbers due to operational security requirements and while I have pretty good estimates of what they must be, I am not going to subject you to estimates. I do assure you that unlike Washington politicians I am quite aware of the concept of the “tooth to tail ratio”. By the standards of previous wars, our tooth:tail ratio in Iraq is outstanding. Our tooth:tail ratio in WWII was roughly 1:12 (i.e., for every combat soldier in the combat zone, there were 12 logistics and support personnel to provide him with fuel, ammunition, equipment, and sustenance), which rose to 1:16 by the time the Vietnam War rolled around. We actually have as many actual combat troops in Iraq today as we had in Vietnam at the height of the 1969 surge there, despite the fact that there were some 520,000 or so U.S. military personnel in Vietnam at the time.

    The notion that 100K support personnel are adequate logistical support for 200K combat troops is not supported by any recent experience of the U.S. military. We have not managed such a tooth:tail ratio since the American Civil War. The current logistical support infrastructure in Iraq would be utterly untenable if not for the fact that so much of it is “off the books”, outsourced at great cost to private haulers protected by Blackwater mercenaries (last estimates I saw from 2005 on the scale of this “tail” was approximately 120,000 people). But finding private haulers willing to enter Iraq even under the protection of Blackwater mercenaries becomes harder with each day as the public impression of Iraq as a lawless war zone become more prevalent. And even if all 120,000 private logistical personnel remained on the job, that would still be a tooth:tail ratio that would have to be astoundingly efficient in order to support 200,000 actual combat troops. Technology helps, but is no panacea (I should know, that is the industry I currently work in). Boxes of ammunition do not load themselves, or drive themselves, or otherwise do any of the myriad of tasks needed to get them from the port in Kuwait to the soldiers in the field.

    Finally, regarding the difference between an insurgency and active warfare, the primary difference is the pace of operations, not the nature of warfare. Anti-insurgency operations are low intensity and take place over an extended timeframe and thus put less stress upon the logistical arm. Otherwise we would have serious problems in Iraq, because the logistical infrastructure in place would be utterly incapable of supporting sustained high-intensity warfare for extended periods of time even on the part of just our U.S. combat brigades.

    I suggest you go look at the logistical history of the U.S. Army before making further statements about the logistical requirements of modern armies. In particular, the U.S. Army War College has many papers online regarding logistical issues that the U.S. military faced in a variety of actions in the recent past and why exactly we need so many logistical support personnel (“tail”) to support the pointy end of the stick (“tooth”). Some of the issues they discuss have been solved via additional automation. Some have not — for example, it is still common that U.S. units end up getting more of an item than they need because they order the item, receive a partial shipment due to low stock, and re-order the item after the backordered item is already on the way. Short of changing human nature, such logistical issues are difficult to resolve. And while privatization has freed up some logistical tasks, it also has its own problems, as I mentioned above — i.e., private haulers tend to frown upon entering what they consider to be a combat zone, and the loyalty of locally-hired day labor used to substitute for U.S. personnel in unloading, sorting, and dispatching items cannot be easily assured especially in an anti-insurgency operation.

  • BadTux says:

    Data from the Congressional Budget Office, “Chapter Two. The Army’s Force Requirements for Various Missions”, in Structuring the Active and Reserve Army in the Twenty-First Century (Washington D.C.: Congressional Budget Office, December 1997): the U.S. military in its TTA-2003 analysis estimated that it required a ratio of 2.5 for support personnel to combat personnel; that is, over 70 per cent of the in-theatre troops are involved in support rather than in combat.
    Things have changed since 1997, but not by that much.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    BadTux
    The US Army has always been fat logisticaly compared to any other country. (Or Uncle Sam’s Misbegotten Children.) It is an institutional failing.
    The Soviet Army and Wermacht of WWII had a 30-50% logistics element and they were fighting High-Intensity Warfare. Most militaries are lighter on logistics because they are not suppling from another continent (we are). They are suppling within their own country. The external is contracted out.
    As you have pointed out: The actual in-country support element is twice the uniformed support element. And that does not include the merchies and ATC support external to Iraq. Your cited numbers in those studies include that linkage to the US.
    Do I consider the IA Support element adequate: No.
    It is in its infancy since it started forming 16 months ago.
    But it is being grown and expanded. Most of the equipment in the 7 Dec FMS announcement are to enhance and expand IA support elements. Mostly trucks, trailers, wreakers and ARVs (and security vehicles).
    The DBE and INP (MOI) logistics is almost non-existent by comparison. At least the MOD part is work-in-progress. If you want a nightmare, review the MOI mess. Between that and their credibility issue, I am not surprised at INP being put into a joint IA/INP Pretorian Corps in Baghdad under IA officer. They need IA to cover INP’s deficiencies…

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis