Iraqi Security Forces develop logistics capabilities

Iraqi Army Logistics by Echelon.

There is a reason that “amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics.” Logistics isn’t sexy, tends to be boring, and is always necessary. Without the beans, bullets, and boots, the only tactical options are surrender and/or death. This article addresses the Iraqi Security Forces logistical organization and development.

The Iraqi Security Forces supply systems are based on three models. Modified forms of the US pre-modular, US modular, and the decentralized provincial police system. The major modification to the two US-based formats is that the US forces are expeditionary, while Iraqi forces are not. Iraqi Support elements are built around static supply bases and do not have the extra mobility elements that US forces have. Iraqi forces do not require those extra elements. While the Iraqi Security Forces will have sufficient supply elements for the low-intensity conflict they are currently engaged in, they are three to five years from having the necessary components for the high-intensity conflict of external defense.

Iraqi Army Group and Army. The Army Group level support is provided by the Iraqi Support Command and its subordinate support and maintenance depots in Taji. These depots are static support brigades in all but name. The North Taji Maintenance Depot is a Vehicle Maintenance Brigade with separate tracked, wheeled, and HMMWV repair battalions, plus will probably add a recovery battalion. The South Taji Maintenance Depot is a General Equipment Maintenance Brigade with generator, radio, small arms, and other equipment repair elements. Organization of the National Depots is as follows:

Iraqi Support Command (ISC)

Combined Logistics Operations Center (Headquarters)

– Al Muthanna Vehicle Supply Depot (Battalion)

– Bayji National Ammunition Depot Support Battalion

– Najaf National Ammunition Depot Support Battalion (forming)

Taji National Supply Depot (Brigade)

– Taji National Supply Depot Support Battalion

– Taji National Ammunition Depot Support Battalion

– Taji General Transport Regiment

South Taji (GSE) Maintenance Depot (Brigade)

– Generator Repair Facility (Battalion)

– Radio Repair Facility (Battalion)

– Small Arms Weapons Repair Facility (Battalion)

North Taji (Vehicle) Maintenance Depot (Brigade)

– Tracked Vehicle Maintenance Depot (Battalion)

– Wheeled Vehicle Maintenance Depot (Battalion)

– HMMWV Refurb/Insp/Transition Depot (Battalion)

– Vehicle Recovery Battalion (probably planned)

Taji also has a sustainment brigade. The Taji National Supply Depot is a Sustainment Brigade complete with supply, ammunition and transport components. There are two additional ammunition depots forming that are probably the first components of two additional Sustainment Brigades. These three sustainment brigades would be the Northern (Bayji), Central (Taji), and Southern (Najaf) Army’s Sustainment Brigades in wartime. This also has the benefit of providing supply redundancy for the Iraqi Army. The Taji-based elements are to be complete by the end of 2008. The Najaf and Bayji elements are two to three years from operational.

Iraqi Army Corps. Each of the four planned army corps will probably get a sustainment brigade of its own. These brigades are more likely to be mobile compared to the Army/Army Group level formations and will provide for the extra support needed at key areas within the corps area in operations. Components will include maintenance, sustainment, and transport battalions. These components are planned to be formed by the end of 2011.

Iraqi Army Divisions. Divisional logistics is a sustainment brigade in all but name. There are two formats at this level, the heavy divisions are modeled on US modular format and the light divisions are organized on the US pre-modular format. Heavy divisions (armor/mech) are provided with a Maintenance Battalion and a Location Command. The Location Command is the same thing as a sustainment battalion, except it has more fixed facilities. Light divisions (infantry/motorized/commando/mountain) are the same, except they also have a Motor Transport Regiment. It is possible that the heavy divisions will gain a Motor Transport Regiment when they add artillery components. The extra supply transport will be needed. These components are to be formed by the end of 2008. However, if the Iraqi Army adds the divisional motor transport regiments to the heavy divisions, they will not be complete until 2011 at earliest.

Iraqi Army Brigades. Brigade logistics also employs the same two heavy and light organizations. Heavy brigades have Brigade Support Battalions with maintenance, sustainment, and transport companies. Light brigades have only their headquarters and Support Company. Again, with the addition of mortars and field artillery, light brigades are likely to gain sustainment battalions. These components are formed as the brigades are built. However, if the Iraqi Army adds the extra brigade support battalions to the light divisions, they will not be ready until 2011 at earliest.

Iraqi Army Battalions. Battalions are provided with only their headquarters and support companies. Their subordinate companies are dependent on battalion level support and do not have supply sections. The headquarters and support companies are formed with the battalions.

Air Force and Navy. The Iraqi Air Force and Navy are static forces with their logistics components consolidated at their bases. Their upper level support is provided by the Iraqi Support Command. They both have some inherent transport capacity in their transport aircraft and support ships. Current emphasis is on forming the infrastructure and support elements for future combat components. This will facilitate the immediate support of new squadrons as they are formed, leaving only squadron level maintenance and support to be built with their formation. The Navy should be fully mission-capable by the end of 2012 and the Air Force by 2018.

Iraqi Special Operations Forces. Although light, these forces are very mobile. Like heavy brigades, the 1st Special Operations Brigade has its own Brigade Support Battalion. A Force Garrison Support Unit (sustainment battalion) is also being formed with detachments augmenting their separate regionally based combat battalions. The 15th Special Operations Squadron will also bring an inherent transport and support capacity to Iraqi Special Operations Force units, as needed. Upper level logistics support is provided by the Iraqi Support Command. Logistics support is formed in parallel with new combat elements in ISOF.

Iraqi National Police. The Iraqi National Police is forming a Sustainment Brigade and will probably form four more. One for each region (corps). Divisional supply will probably mirror Iraqi Army light divisions, as their brigade and battalion levels already do. The Iraqi National Police is approximately two years behind the Iraqi Army in development. Currently, the divisional support has not been built, which is why the National Police has limited ability to support operations outside the Baghdad region. Deployed National Police brigades usually lean on Iraqi Army support when not in the Baghdad area. Higher level support is provided by the Iraqi Support Command. The National Police logistics is two years from logistics support for its primary role of internal security and three to five years from necessary components for its secondary role of external security backup to the Iraqi Army.

Department of Border Enforcement. Like the Iraqi National Police, the Department of Border Enforcement is organizing its logistics support along the lines of Iraqi Army light divisions. However, the Department of Border Enforcement has lower priority than the Iraqi National Police, and logistics elements are still very thin on the ground. This lower priority means they are five years from the necessary components for the secondary role of external security backup to the Iraqi Army.

Iraqi Police. Like most of the world’s provincial and local police departments, the Iraqi Police logistics is decentralized into their precinct houses with upper level support provided by the provincial government and the Ministry of Interior.

The only differences in Iraqi Security Forces logistical organization and the US systems is that the Iraqi supply, sustainment, and maintenance elements are more likely to be static, and thus have differing designations. Those elements are tied to fixed warehouses and facilities, while US forces, due to their expeditionary nature, are more mobile. Because the duties of the ISF are not expeditionary, this should not be a problem. While Iraqi forces will have sufficient logistics support for internal security over the next year, it will be three to five years before they are capable of supporting the high-intensity combat of external security.

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18 Comments

  • anand says:

    Question on location based commands (static BSUs):
    14 confirmed so far, perhaps 16 once two more are built for 15th and 16th IADs.
    Each of the 4 Corps HQs will receive 1 supply battalion? Will they be static location based commands?
    If so, than the IA is building 20 location based commands (Base Supply Units or supply battalions), with 4 of the location based commands (Corps supply battalions) being more mobile than the rest.
    More questions:
    Will the location based commands and corps based supply battalions have a dotted line reporting to the ISC and a hard line reporting to their respective division/Corps HQs? What about the divisional and corps level maintenance battalions?
    I wonder about the connection between the ISC and MTRs (divisional transportation battalions)/corps level transportation battalions as well.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    anand at September 22, 2008 1:30 PM ET:
    Each of the 4 Corps HQs will receive 1 supply battalion? Will they be static location based commands?
    – Re-read corps: “Each of the four planned army corps will probably get a sustainment brigade of its own. These brigades are more likely to be mobile compared to the Army/Army Group level formations…”
    – Bn subordinates are under the bn cmdr.
    – Bde subordinates are under bde cmdr.
    – Div subordinates are under div cmdr.
    – Corps subordinates are under corps cmdr.
    – ISC is the Army/Army Group level logistics command. Answers to IGFC and JFC. ISC has no command function with the other subordinates.
    It is, however, the in-country central source of logistics support that all the lesser formations draw from and functions as TYCOM. So yes, there is a liaison connection. The MTRs are part of the division. That is why ISC is getting its own subordinate GTR.

  • Neo says:

    A lot of readers would probably like to know a little about is how this affects the overall burden on US logistical units. From your work, it looks as if significant progress is being made in direct support logistics at the Battalion level. To what degree does the US still provide oversight of these support units? Also, we still seem to provide much of the upstream logistics for these support units. Where are we going to stand with oversight and upstream logistics over the coming years?
    It looks like the US logistics burden will significantly shift over the next 18 months. With the Iraqi army getting incrementally larger over time, the total size of oversight and upstream logistics also grow larger, even as unit support is turned over to the Iraqis. I’m not sure how much of the upstream logistics will be taken over by Iraq and when. Unless I misunderstand, it looks like we will still have significant obligations supporting the Iraqi army for some time, though we will be increasingly removed to the background as Iraqi capabilities expand.

  • anand says:

    Neo, your question needs to be broken up into three types (transportation, supply and maintenance) across four levels (brigade, division, corps, army.)
    The brigade level supply, transportation and maintenance is consolidated into a brigade support battalions. So far only heavy brigades have them. Those BSBs seem to be working well. How quickly light brigades get BSBs (assuming they do) is uncertain.
    At the division level, the transportation battalions seem to be functioning well. No word yet on when the corps level forms (maybe DJ can ask.) Army level is currently forming under ISC.
    Supply battalions:
    -only 9 out of {4 (for the corps) + 16(for the divisions) = 20 planned supply battalions} are mostly operational (ORA level C3 or better in the fight.)
    -five more are C4 or better currently being trained, equipped and constructed. All plan to be fully operational by early next Spring (maybe April.)
    – two more, perhaps based in the KRG, are likely to be announced soon; although when remains uncertain
    – No word yet on when the 4 corps level supply battalions will be formed (maybe DJ can ask)
    – A major effort at army level supply under ISC. My best guess is fully operational within 18 months.
    Maintenance battalions:
    – far behind transportation (furthest along) and supply.
    – DJ, can you ask about the status of division level maintenance battalions?
    – Corps level maintenance battalions (4 of them) likely do become fully operational until 2010.
    – Significant progress on national level maintenance, especially at Taji.
    – Maintenance will be difficult given the large diversity of IA equipment (East block, American, other.)
    Neo, my rough guess is that the IA will be mostly independent with respect to supply within 15 months (the last element to be created will be the four corps level transport batalions); mostly independent with respect to transportation within 30 months, and mostly independent with respect to maintenance within 4 years.

  • anand says:

    Typos above.
    Neo, my rough guess is that the IA will be mostly independent with respect to supply within 15 months (the last elements to be created will be the four corps level transportation batalions); mostly independent with respect to “SUPPLY” within 30 months, and mostly independent with respect to maintenance within 4 years.

  • Joakim Ekström says:

    Great resource! Excellent work!
    Will every support unit have US advisors? Will US support companies partner with Iraqi support battalions?

  • anand says:

    The next para also had typos:
    “Neo, my rough guess is that the IA will be mostly independent with respect to transportation within 15 months (the last elements to be created will be the four corps level transportation batalions); mostly independent with respect to “SUPPLY” within 30 months, and mostly independent with respect to maintenance within 4 years.”
    Transportion only refers to the 1st 14 divisions (location based commands.) If the IA grows to 19 divisions, that would delay transportation independents for the IA

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Neo at September 22, 2008 5:02 PM ET:
    Where are we going to stand with oversight and upstream logistics over the coming years?
    – I gave specific timeframes for each level. And the distinction of independence for COIN vs full war. We are no longer training the IA in these categories. Just providing partners and MiTT teams to new units until they are on their feet.
    Considering that we were the ISF’s entire logistics system (all levels) in 2005, this has been a considerable shift already. It is only at Div and above that we are still assisting and most of that is contractors and advisors. To reiterate:
    – Bde level and below is IA support.
    – Div level is to be built by end-2008.
    – Corps level is to be built by end-2011.
    – Army/Army Group level to be built in 2009.
    – MoI formations about 2-3 years behind IA.
    The gap at corps and in BSBs is a non-issue in low-intensity conflict. Those levels of logistics support are only essential for high-intensity conflict. So US logistics support (except for training) will go away between 12-18 months from now. (Always factor a 6-12 month OJT/partnering period for a unit after formed.) The IA is already independent for life support items. The latest press reports about ISF needing US support were about INP/DBE. They are 2-3 years behind the IA.
    Posted by anand at September 22, 2008 5:39 PM ET:
    – As I said, the BSBs and Corps levels are not essential for COIN. They will be built later.
    – 9010 report said corps forming between 2009-2011. That would include the support elements. Note: There is a Level III maintenance depot at Rustimayah that had not been previously ID’d. Great location for a corps’ troops…
    Maintenance battalions:
    – Not so bad. That was the emphasis at the start of the year and now Engr/Med is the emphasis. This means the Maint components are 90% built. What they are is still green. Given a year to shake out, they should be good to go.
    – Supply independent for low-intensity conflict within 6 months. Independent for high-intensity conflict in 3-5 years (3 for MoD/5 for MoI). High-intensity being conventional war.
    Posted by Joakim Ekström at September 22, 2008 5:48 PM ET:
    Will every support unit have US advisors?
    – Initially, there are MiTTs, NPTTs, BTTs at all levels bn and above. Those go away at the lower levels as units go independent. 8th IA Div has very few MiTTs and those are in the five new bns and the Bde/Div HQs. For a time they had no MiTTs at Bde/Bn, then they donated cadre to 14th Div and regained MiTTs with their five green bns and one green Bde plus the LC expansion program.
    Will US support companies partner with Iraqi support battalions?
    – Partnering has been going on for years. This is standard practice with new-formed(ing) units. They are partnered while still in training phases. It phases out as the unit goes in-lead, just as the MiTTs phase out when the units go independent.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Anand
    Do not over-emphasis the new division factor.
    – 15th and 16th Divs already existed under a different flag. They already have logistics elements although they will need a bit of equipment. Remember that these are Mountain Divs and inherently lighter than normal.
    – 17th Div plans to already have its Log elements by the end of the year. The new divs are getting their log elements within 6mo of commisioning and are partially equipped from the existing (cadre).
    – Three more of the divs are also KRG transfers and already have most of what they need except some equipment. Remember that these are Mountain Divs and inherently lighter than normal.
    – The two additional southern divs potential existance is based on the logisics elements already being built in advance of their formation. They will probably have all their log support within 6mo of formation. With all of the existing cadre to draw from, adding two more divs will be easily accelerated. Just reduce the existing Div MTRs by 10% each and you have 50% manned cadre for those two.
    At most, the growth to 21 IA Divs (not incl ISOF), will have minimal impact to the div timeline and that impact will only be to the two new divisions.
    P.S.
    19 divs? That is an old estimate.
    – 16 existing IA + 3 more existing KRG + 2 new formed (split from 8th and 10th) = 21 IA Divs.
    – MoI is 11 INP/MoI Divs and five DBE Divs for 16 total.
    – ISOF is one, but probably will gain more at expense of MoI numbers.
    38 total ISF Divs not including FPS and local IP.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/23/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Ali says:

    Great article. Thanks for the info.
    I still think the IA and the IP (especially) have a long way to go.
    We will need our American allies to stay for some years until Iraq can sustain itself and become a powerful but responsible power in the region, at peace with all the countries in the region.

  • Joakim Ekström says:

    Which Iraqi Army units have ORA1? Is this information publicly available?

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Joakim Ekström
    ORA ratings of specific units is classified in every country in the world. Conventional forces at Secret level. Some people like to guess as to which ones are which. I choose not to speculate…

  • anand says:

    Joakim Ekström, some units are known to have reached ORA level 1 in the past, but C1 units are pruned for cadre to form new IA units.
    My speculation on ORA level 1, or high ORA level 2, near ORA level 1 Iraqi Army brigades are:
    1st bde through 11th Bde (it is possible that 7th Bde is ORA level 2, and 2nd IAD remains short of vehicles)
    14th Bde through 16th Bde in the 4th IAD
    17th Bde is C2 or higher. Don’t know if it is high C2, near C1 or C1. (in the last Salahadin briefing, a 4th IAD bde was described as C1 or near C1, I don’t know if it was 17th Bde)
    6th IAD use to consist of several high quality IA brigades, but now they have been split up to create the 17th division. So for the moment, I doubt there are any high classification IA bdes in 6th and 17th IAD.
    -26th, 27th, 28th Bde from the 7th IAD
    -30th, 31st and 33rd Bde from the 8th IAD
    -34th, 35th, 36th Bdes from 9th IAD (maybe 37th Bde, but it is too green to know for sure)
    -50th Bde from the 14th division
    This is all speculation of course.

  • Joakim Ekström says:

    Will IA combat units be generated at the same fast pace in 2009 as in 2008? Or will combat force generation goals be met sometime soon. If so, perhaps jundis can get more and better training before they are deployed. So that the IA can focus on increasing combat power more on the quality side of the spectrum.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Joakim Ekström
    The emphasis has shifted to Engr, Med, and FA. The FA and Engrs are to be built in 2009/10 period.
    – Expansion of Engrs will probably add 16-32 more bns to the IA.
    – 6 bns of FA per div, 16 current divs = 96 battalions of field artillery. And that does not include the estimated 5 more new or KRG transfer divs. That would mean 126. Then there is the extra for the independent brigades and corps troops…
    There is a very good reason the Iraqi MoD said end-2011 for ground back in Feb….
    (Total IA Combat bns planned for the end of this year is 187. For comparison.)

  • ajacksonian says:

    DJ Elliott – My deepest thanks! This is the kind of news I can’t get anywhere else. And that is the truth… this is where we cement the win.
    Finances a bit thin, but should have something ready to go by year end…

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