Projected ISF Five Year Plan (end-2012)

Project Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle in 2012. Click to view.

Each month, when the Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle update is published, the same question gets asked in one form or another: What will be the end-state for Iraqi forces? That question is unanswerable with any certitude; only opinions can be asserted. What follows is a rough five-year projection. Five years is about as far out as possible to project and have any chance of being close to right. Readers wanting hard, attributable data should read the Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle.

What follows is heavy on speculation, estimation, and extrapolations. If sixty percent proves accurate, I will consider it good. It is based on already formed and planned ISF elements, US standard organization, and extrapolation of the planned Table of Organization and Equipment (TO/E). What I have done is take the apparent framework inferred by the current organization and filled in the missing pieces in a standard TO/E. All hard data is in italics.

The following factors and basic assumptions should be kept in mind when reviewing this:

1. This is an estimate of the planned state of the main forces by the end of 2012.

2. The principle role of the Iraqi Army (IA) is external security. Internal security is a secondary role for IA.

3. The primary and secondary countries posing an external threat are Iran and Syria.

4. The Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) sectors are the basis for Iraqi Army Corps.

5. Iraqi Special Operations Force (I SOF) is considered a strategic reserve with a brigade in each corps area.

6. The Iraqi Army is projected to grow to 20 divisions (including I SOF as division equivalent).

7. The motorization of a 20-division Iraqi Army will probably be incomplete.

8. An Iraqi Army formal reserve probably will be established with one to two reserve divisions per corps.

9. The principle forces for internal security belong to the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

10. The Iraqi National Police (INP) is inadequate for the planned primary internal security role.

11. INP requires expansion and ethnic balancing.

12. The Department of Border Enforcement (DBE) requires further expansion.

13. Kurdish Regional Guards (KRG) will be heavily recruited and redesignated IA/INP.

Iraqi Security Forces as of August 2007. Click to view.

Iraqi Special Operations Forces Command (I SOF): Currently, I SOF consists of only one brigade and three separate companies. The three companies are planned to be expanded to battalions and maybe brigades. They probably will expand to six brigades with each composed of a brigade special troops battalion (BSTB), a commando battalion (ranger equivalent), a counter-terrorism battalion, a utility helicopter squadron, and possibly an attack/scout helicopter squadron and a brigade support battalion (BSB). I SOF will act as a national-level joint forces command (JFC) army quick reaction force.

Iraqi Air Force (IZAF): This is the least clear component in the ISF. Very few details have been released so what follows is mostly my best guess based on my expertise (SWAG).

– Seven utility helicopter squadrons will be assigned to I SOF support (one per brigade) and Marines. Only 2nd Squadron (UH-1H) is formed now.

– Possibly six scout/attack helicopter squadrons will be assigned to I SOF (one per brigade).

– Six composite squadrons to provide reconnaissance, search and rescue, counterinsurgency, and quick reaction force transport (one per IGFC corps).

Two medium rotary transport squadrons; 4th and probably 12th Squadrons equipped with Mi-17s.

One medium transport squadron equipped with C-130s (23rd Squadron).

One light transport squadron equipped with CASA C212 (set for delivery in 2008).

– Three to five fighter squadrons equipped with F16s. The earliest stand-up is in 2009.

Kirkuk Flight Training School will need additional helicopters for training beyond the five Jet Rangers transferring from 12th Squadron.

Iraqi Security Forces projected in 2012. Click to view.

Iraqi Navy and Marines: The vessels already listed for delivery in 2008 are capable of covering Iraq’s limited coastline, which is only 68 km. Expect a naval aviation squadron to be formed for reconnaissance, search and rescue, and quick reaction forces for the platforms (probably utility helicopters). Currently, the Marines consist of one battalion; expect that to expand to a brigade. This is based on the size of the expanding navy and the increased need for boarding parties, security teams, and quick reaction force.

Iraqi Ground Forces Command: The principal role of the IGFC is external security and the components for that role are to be added starting 2008. The IGFC is currently announced at three corps (partially formed), 10 divisions (growing to 13), and 36 brigades (growing to 52). Using the MoD announced IGFC sectors as a basis of organization, the planned force is probably six corps — one armor division, one armored cavalry division, four mechanized divisions, and 13 infantry or motorized divisions — organized as follows.

IGFC Baghdad Sector (Baghdad Operational Command) – I Corps. To act as national strategic reserve.

9th Armor Division – northern Baghdad

6th Motorized Division – western Baghdad

11th Motorized Division – eastern Baghdad

?? Infantry Division – southern Baghdad (planned to become motorized)*

Two reserve infantry divisions.

– IGFC Kirkuk-Baqubah Sector (Diyala Operational Command) – II Corps. Threat focus is the central Iranian border. This is armor terrain, thus two mechanized divisions are assigned.

4th Mechanized Division – Kirkuk/Sulmaniyah

12th Mechanized Division – Salahadin

5th Motorized Division – Diyala

One to two reserve infantry divisions, which will probably be redesignated KRG.

IGFC Basrah Sector (Basrah Operational Command) – III Corps. Threat focus is the southern Iranian border.

13th Mechanized Division – Basrah

10th Motorized Division – Maysan

?? Infantry Division – DhiQar/Muthanna (planned to become motorized)

One to two reserve infantry divisions.

IGFC Ramadi Sector (? Corps). Threat focus is the Syrian border with a secondary role as a strategic reserve element.

7th Armored Cavalry Division – western Anbar*

1st Motorized Division – eastern Anbar

?? Infantry Division – central Anbar (planned to become motorized)

One to two reserve infantry divisions

– IGFC Mosul Sector (? Corps). Threat focus is the northern Iranian border; this is mountainous terrain, thus mechanized divisions are not needed.

3rd Motorized Division – western Ninawa

2nd Motorized Division – eastern Ninawa/Dahuk

?? Mountain Division – Irbil (probably redesignated KRG; planned to become motorized)

One to two reserve infantry divisions (also probably redesignated KRG).

IGFC Mid-Euphrates Sector (? Corps). Threat focus is the south-central Iranian border.

8th Mechanized Division – Babil/Qadisayah

14th Infantry Division – Wasit (planned to become motorized)

?? Infantry Division – Karbala/Najaf (planned to become motorized)*

One to two reserve infantry divisions.

* If the IA does not reach 20 divisions by the end of 2012, these divisions are the most likely to be missing. The mid-Euphrates sector would be the last to add a division. The Anbar armored cavalry division might be only a brigade. Baghdad might not have a southern division.

IA Corps (6): Each corps is likely to consist of a support brigade based on the existing National Depot/five regional support units, three to four divisions, one I SOF airmobile brigade (JFC operational control), a composite aviation squadron, and an undetermined number of independent brigades and battalions.

IA Divisions (19 not including I SOF): Division troops are likely to consist of a special troops battalion, a reconnaissance battalion, and an engineer battalion; a support brigade or element composed of a BSTB (mechanized, armor, and cavalry divisions only), a motor-transport regiment (all divisions), a base support unit/battalion (all divisions), and a maintenance battalion (mechanized, armor, and cavalry divisions only); a fires brigade will be composed of a BSTB, three field artillery battalions, an air defense artillery battalion, and a BSB; and four line brigades. The armor division is composed of two armor brigades, a mechanized brigade, and a motor-cavalry brigade. The armored cavalry division will consist of three armored cavalry brigades and a motor-cavalry brigade. The mechanized divisions consist of an armor brigade, two mechanized brigades, and a motor-cavalry brigade. The motorized divisions are made up of four motorized brigades. The infantry divisions consist of four infantry brigades.

IA Line Brigades (76): The IA line brigades will consist of a BSTB, a mortar battalion (except cavalry brigades), a BSB (motorized, mechanized, armor, and cavalry brigades only), and three (four for cavalry) line battalions. Armor brigades have two armor battalions and a mechanized battalion. Armored cavalry brigades will have four armored cavalry battalions. Mechanized brigades have an armor battalion and two mechanized battalions. Motor-cavalry brigades will consist of four motor-cavalry battalions (BTR/ASV/AGS equipped). Motorized brigades have three motorized battalions (MRAP equipped). Infantry brigades have three infantry battalions.

Iraqi National Police: Currently, the INP has two divisions with one mechanized brigade, eight police motorized brigades, and one (forming) support brigade. This is insufficient for the planned role as the primary, national-level, internal security force. Expect the INP to increase to four divisions assigned to north, west, south, and Baghdad. The Baghdad INP Division will probably be five to six INP brigades while the provincial divisions will be three to four brigades each (14 to 18 total INP brigades). Each division will add a support brigade for deployability. The probable method of expansion and ethnic balancing will be to recruit one division’s worth of personnel from the Kurdish Regional Guards and one from the Sunni Provincial Security Forces, then cross-attach the personnel.

Department of Border Enforcement (DBE): Expect the five DBE regions (divisions), 12 brigades, and 42 battalions to grow to 15 to 20 brigades totaling 60 to 80 battalions. The DBE will be standardized at four battalions and a headquarters per brigade and three to four brigades per region.

This concludes my projection of the five-year plan of the ISF. Regardless of whether this estimation of planned forces is correct, much of the following is still useful for analysis of the Iraqi Table of Organization and Equipment (TO/E).

What follows is my working checklist and notes of current missing or deficient items in the IA TO/E:


_____Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) shortage. The biggest weakness is a shortage of NCOs and only time and experience can correct that.

_____Mortar Sections. Company level is still short on mortar sections (2x 60mm). Training is unknown. IA has a received sufficient quantity (884) 60mm mortars to equip 110 battalions’ worth of companies.


_____Senior NCO Shortage. Again, only time and experience can correct this.

_____Mortar Batteries. Battalions do not have their mortar batteries (4-6x 81/82/90/120mm).

_____Heavy Weapons Sections. Battalions continue to be short of heavy weapons (12.7mm HMGs).

_____Motorization. Thirty percent of the battalions are to have sufficient APC/MRAPs to be motorized by the end of 2007; two-thirds by the end of 2009.


_____Leadership. Remains the biggest problem at the brigade level. Too few competent and trustworthy brigade commanders are available.

_____Senior NCO Shortage. Only time and experience can correct this.

_____Brigade Combat Engineer/EOD elements. These are being trained but are a work in progress.

_____Mortar (120mm) or Field Artillery (FA) Battalions. IA has not formed or started training the brigades’ indirect fire-support battalions. These probably will start forming in 2008.

_____Intelligence. Intelligence personnel are still in training.

_____Medical. Medical personnel are still in training.

_____Communications. Equipment and qualified personnel shortages exist. Training is ongoing.

_____Brigade Support Battalions (BSB). As the brigades become fully motorized and gain their mortar/FA battalions, they will need to add BSBs. Only the brigades of the 9th Division and I SOF have BSBs so far.


_____Leadership. This is an even bigger problem at division level than the lower levels. Even fewer competent and trustworthy division commanders are available than at brigade level. This has delayed forming new division headquarters.

_____Intelligence. An intelligence and reconnaissance company (scout company) is insufficient for both roles at division level. A dedicated military intelligence company is needed.

_____Medical. Medical shortages in equipment, facilities and personnel.

_____Communications. Equipment and qualified personnel shortages exist.

_____Engineer Battalions. The division engineering regiments’ components are partially formed. The training of engineers/EOD has been slow.

_____FA Brigades. The formation of the divisions’ fires brigades (FA) has not started or been announced. The shortage of brigade commanders will probably delay these brigades formation until after the FA battalions are formed for the line brigades.

_____Division Reconnaissance Battalion/Quick Reaction Battalion. Early in 2007, the prime minister announced a plan to form one “elite battalion” per division. This is probably the planned divisions’ reconnaissance battalion. The divisions’ special troops battalion has a scout company, but that is insufficient for division level and they are probably expanding the SOF/reconnaissance capability of the divisions.

_____Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Battalions. While there are reports of Iraqi MoD shopping for anti-aircraft missiles, no ADA battalions have been announced as planned. Standard US Army TO/E is one ADA battalion per division while other countries have ADA brigade or regiment per division.

_____Maintenance Battalions. As the Iraqi Army divisions become motorized and grow to the standard four line brigades/one fires brigade, they will require more support elements. Currently, infantry divisions have supply battalions called base support units (BSU) and motor transport regiments (MTR). Expect a maintenance battalion to be added and those elements to be formed as a divisional support brigade.

_____Motor Transport Regiments. The 9th Division already has a maintenance battalion but does not have an MTR. Expect the 9th to add an MTR and to form a support brigade.

_____Support Brigades. Formation of a support brigade in each division composed of a BSU, MTR, and maintenance battalion is probable as remaining components are formed.

_____Divisional Aviation Elements. US divisions have an aviation brigade. I do not expect the Iraqi divisions to get that many aircraft, but an aviation battalion (utility squadron) is likely.


_____Leadership. Lack of competent and trustworthy leadership is probably one of the reasons why only three of the six IGFC sectors have corps headquarters. Two of those are currently commanded by dual-hatted division commanders. Another reason for the limited number of corps formed is that not all of the divisions are formed. The Baghdad Operational Command was established when the Baghdad Sector had two IA divisions and a third was being formed. The Diyala Operational Command is in an IGFC sector that also has two divisions and is forming a third. The newly established Basrah Operational Command is about to form its second division and one of those two will be mechanized. The remaining three sectors each have 1-2 divisions operational or forming.

_____Intelligence. Forming at this level.

_____Medical. Forming at this level.

_____Communications. Forming at this level.

_____Corps Support Brigades. Only the beginnings of these have been formed. They are the National Depot and regional support units. Expansion is in progress. One RSU is located in each of five IGFC sectors while the National Depot supports the Baghdad Sector.

_____Corps Independent Brigades. Normally, corps have additional field artillery, ADA, engineer, aviation, and other independent brigades. None of those additional components have formed.


_____Leadership. There is a limited pool of trustworthy senior officers. JFC and IGFC are separate jobs for same general.

_____Intelligence. Intelligence at Army/Ministry level is politicized and divisive.

_____Medical. Training is not run by the Iraqis. Still under Coalition instructors.

_____Communications. Training is not run by the Iraqis. Still under Coalition instructors

_____Logistics. The National Depot is expanding and a maintenance depot is being established. RSUs are also filling out.

_____Artillery. Nonexistent. It is, however, in the budget starting 2008.

_____Mortars. Only 60mm mortars for company sections are in place so far.

_____Air Defense. Nonexistent. Only ATC radars are fielded and there are reports that tactical anti-aircraft missile are being shopped for by MoD.

_____Aviation. Iraqi Air Force is an under-strength transport and reconnaissance group. The Iraqi Air Force is grossly insufficient in size and capabilities

_____Engineers/EOD. At all levels the engineers/EOD elements are short on trained personnel and equipment.

_____APCs/MRAPs. Current purchases of these vehicles would motorize two-thirds of the IA by the end of 2009. However, with the anticipated expansion to 20 divisions, the number of motorized untis would be closer to half.

_____Armor. There are not enough tanks to fill the 9th division. Until additional tanks/APCs are received, the three additional armor/mechanized divisions cannot be formed. That will bring them up to only four heavy divisions. Six is the minimum estimated needed for primary enemy.

_____Size. The Iraqi Army remains deficient in leadership, logistics, artillery, mortars, engineers/EOD, APCs, armor, and most of all size. Current announced force structure would require 80,000-100,000 more personnel to fill out mission components in their TO/E. To fill out the six IGFC sectors to a three-division sized corps and to provide for a reserve would mean a 20-division army of 400,000+.



  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 08/27/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • thanos says:

    This is excellent; it’s great news that some are thinking beyond the immediate threat into the future and the next threats.
    Under 4 I am surprised to not see Turkey listed as a tertiary threat.
    If it was us holding the ground in 2012 we would be thinking this way and would have contingencies. Perhaps that’s in the unstated planning, which would make sense.
    The security posture described also seems to posit ongoing alliance with other strong countries, military alliances, or neighbors, but it’s a great step to self-reliance.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    I thought about Turkey.
    – There is the publicaly acknowledged threats and there is the privately acknowledged threats.
    – So long as the US is “assisting” Iraq, NATO ally Turkey will not be “officialy” listed as a threat.
    – I expect elements of US to still be in Iraq assisting the Iraqi Air Force five years from now…

  • anand says:

    DJ, congratulations on an amazing job. I don’t think you get enough credit.
    A few very quick observations (I know that all this is speculative . . . and that all the speculative guesses might change “If sixty percent proves accurate, I will consider it good”

  • anand says:

    DJ, as you know I am also skeptical that the GoI can fully fund the ISF in the medium to long term:
    The only way they can fund their current spending projections on the ISF and other spending priorities is if they can increase oil production significantly (it is 2 million barrels a day now).
    Everyone, do you think this is likely?

  • anand says:

    A few typos above, cavalry divisions do not have fire brigades.
    And I guess that a Stryker or Humvee cavalry division is denoted as Armored Cavalry (Light)? You didn’t specify above, but I suspect you meant (Light).
    Do you see the cavalry division, or any other division getting an aviation brigade?
    More comments later.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    – “7th Armored Cavalry Division.”
    Anything is possible. I went with this because:
    1. They are already building an ArmCav Bde in 7th.
    2. They are being built on US lines. Engrs are DivTroops vice Support. (See the FM)
    3. Anbar is secondary reserve (if Syria is not active).
    4. Countries defeated in war tend to model their new militaries on those that beat them. We have 1st Cav Div. Tracked.
    5. ILAV is a MRAP varient. Used in engineering/Motorized Inf. Not being fielded or appropriate for Cav.
    6. BTRs are Stryker type hulls minus the fancy electronics/comms. Heavy wheeled APC vice MRAP.
    7. Expect 7th to extend AOR the length of SY border in wartime. Remember that Iran/Syria are allies. Mosul Sector covers Iranian Border, Ramadi Sector covers Syrian…
    – That being said, 7th might end up a Mech Div with the extra armor going to ind mech bdes… or, or, etc… (speculation)
    – Strykers are too expensive. The BTR equipped Wheeled Cav are the closest equivalent.
    – The I SOF Bdes are envisioned as AirCav (SOF) in all but name. Dual role. Strategic reserve QRF and can be chopped to Corps support as independent Bdes.
    – Terrain is a factor. Look at Iraq’s Iranian border and think about that. All thru the IR-IZ war, mech/armor was north and south of the Hawar marshes. For a reason. Up north it was rare that more than a Mech Bde was employed in those mountains. Infantry country.
    “Will special troop bns (division HQs company) be incorporated into the support brigade? I think yes.”
    – Div HQs (STBs) are senior to the subordinate Bdes. What you are sudgesting is that the Div Cmdr place him and his staff under the command of a subordinate Bde Cmdr. Not happening. When you see “Special Troops”, think HQ troops.
    I thought end state IA would include 1 airborne air assault (excluding ISOF).
    – This is at the 5 year mark. I do not think they have the funds for two Airmobile Divs of Helos. Even with the deal on UH-1Hs they are getting. Just because they are listed as Mech, motor or Inf does not mean they are incapable of AAslt. I count 36xBns in the IA that have AAslt experience (incl all 4 of the Mech Bns of the 9th), not incl I SOF. I just do not see the air component large enough at that point.
    “4-9 IA becomes a motor-cavalry brigade. Interesting.”
    – already is being organized that way in all but name. BTR80s, EE-9 AGS, etc…
    “INP might also convert more into a Carabinieri type force. Maybe larger brigades too.”
    – Possible. I think the expansion and disruption (2 years behind IA) will be too great. That is why I only list one Bde per Div as heavy.
    “When do you think we will start seeing TRA level 2, and TRA level 1 divisions? Which divisions will be first out of the gates?”
    – Only 7th (and new forming 11th, 12th, 13th) are not at 2 as divisions. Level 2 = “in-lead”
    – Watch the 8th for the first to go Independent and FMC (1). Been the lead Div all along and still is. The only Div reported as getting FA observer training so far…
    “DJ, as you know I am also skeptical that the GoI can fully fund the ISF in the medium to long term.”
    – Funding is why I think many of the Divs will be Inf vice motorized in five years. Also why I think the air will be so light. Infantry is cheap to field, the toys to make it more than foot mobile is the expensive part…
    “The only way they can fund their current spending projections on the ISF and other spending priorities is if they can increase oil production significantly (it is 2 million barrels a day now).”
    – That is a priority. Notice the rehab of the export platforms to double their export capacity…
    “A few typos above, cavalry divisions do not have fire brigades.”
    – Yes they do. Cav Bdes do not have FA Bns because the artl is distributed to the four line bns vice being seperated and concentrated. Cav organization.
    “And I guess that a Stryker or Humvee cavalry division is denoted as Armored Cavalry (Light)? You didn’t specify above, but I suspect you meant (Light).”
    – Armor Cav is tracked (heavy; symbol is oval with diagnal line)
    – The Motor-Cav is the stryker equivalent (medium; cav symbol with wheels inside square).
    – The Motorized Recon is the light cav (Mot and Inf Divs; wheels on bottom of square; HMMWVs.)
    “Do you see the cavalry division, or any other division getting an aviation brigade?”
    – See checklist. Aircraft are expensive…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    When you think Cav, think armed recon. Recon is the traditional role of Cav. Also, look at the pre-modular US TO/E as the model. The US Army only went to Modular to facilitate overseas deployability. Iraq does not require that.
    US Army Field Manuals.

  • CamelSpyder says:

    Anand, with regard to oil exports funding the military expansion, you can add another half a million barrels to that export figure in the coming 1-2 months (almost $13 billion a year at current prices). Here’s the link:
    From what I understand the Kurds now have 10,000 peshmerga guarding the Kirkuk refineries and the newly constructed pipeline all the way to turkey.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    FYI: Where it reads 13th IA Div, replace with 14th. Where it reads 14th, replace with 15th.
    They are skipping the number 13 in their IA division nomenclature, according to MNSTC-I.
    Less than 48 hours after published and I have already lost a percentage point in accuracy.
    That is what happens when you do crystal ball work. The dart board, ouji board and dice do not always get it right…

  • Marcello says:

    Has anybody heard anything about this?
    It sounds odd but you never knoe.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Does not fit with request for 120 T72s from NATO (confirmed by NMT-I) or with earlier mentioned plan for getting M60s for mechanizing three more Divisions (mentioned by Cmdr IGFC and confirmed by MNSTC-I).
    Also does not fit with CMATT comment that they were getting more T55/T72/BMPs from 12 days ago.
    What it could be refering to is the new budget that was worked out in Jun for CY2008. They would not be in need of much more armor, until later…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Alternative thought.
    Funding For the M60s/M113s postponed to 2008 budget.
    That would explain the delay in standing up 12th (Salahadin) Mech and 14th (Basrah) Mech Divisions until next year. Equipment delay due to funding delay into CY2008 budget…

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