Iraqi Army Movements In Kirkuk and Salahadin

Iraqi Army Movements in Kirkuk, Salahadin and Sulaymaniyah.

On January 23, 2009, the Kurdish Globe published an article titled “Iraqi army moves closer to Kurdistan”. The very first hand-wringing statement was: “Kurds suspiciously gaze at new army belt in between Kirkuk and Kurdistan provinces”. The article goes on to talk about movements of the Iraqi Army’s 12th Division being alarming and described the movements of elements of Iraqi Army 4th and 12th Divisions as if it was a threat to Kurdistan. The article’s author was apparently unaware that the described activity in the article undermined the claims of a threat.

Some of the unit identifications required some interpretation since the Kurdish Globe’s report used obsolete identifications and nicknames for the brigades. The key points that were emphasized were:

1. 12th Division is doing “suspicious” field operations around Kirkuk. “The movement of the division is not normal and it is a planned agenda; therefore, the Kurdish leadership looks suspiciously at that movement,” said Mustafa Chawrash.

2. The 46th Iraqi Army Brigade (former 9th Strategic Infrastructure Brigade) of the 12th Division, was moved from Kirkuk to Tikrit. The 46th is the best brigade in the 12th Division.

3. The 16th Iraqi Army Brigade (Suleimaniya Brigade) of the 4th Division, was moved from eastern Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah Provinces to Tikrit.

What is missing is the context of these movements. They are not a threat to Kirkuk or Kurdish areas. They are a redistribution of experienced Iraqi Army units to Salahadin to support the elections. Elections that are not being held in Kirkuk and the Kurdish Provinces.

The 4th Iraqi Army Division previously owned the sector of Salahadin, Kirkuk, and Sulaymaniyah Provinces. Approximately two years ago, it was decided to split the area by transfering the Oil Protection Service’s Strategic Infrastructure Battalions back to the Iraqi Army, retraining them, and forming them into the 12th Division. The 12th was originally to commision a year ago but, delays were caused when assets were transfered to Basrah and then Baghdad to accelerate formation of the 14th Division and then the 11th Division. Since then, two Kurdish Divisions have also started transfering to the Iraqi Army.

With the commisioning of the 12th Iraqi Army Division, the re-organization of that region has started. 4th Iraqi Army Division retains Salahadin provence south and east of Tikrit. 12th Iraqi Army Division gets Salahadin north of Tikrit and Kirkuk. Sulaymaniyah Province is transfered to the custody of the Kurdish forces transfering to the Iraqi Army, reportedly the new 15th Iraqi Army Division.

The movements of the newly commisioned 12th Iraqi Army Division are field training of two under-strength newly commisioned brigades under their new divisional headquarters. Kirkuk (K1) is the location of the training center that the 12th Division headquarters plus the 47th and 48th Brigades commisioned from less than two months ago, on November 30, 2008. Both of those brigades are 30 percent understrength pending the graduation from K1 of their newly retrained 3rd Battalions. After which training of the 12th Division’s 49th Brigade will start. Five of the 12th Division’s 13 battalions still have not finished retraining.

What this means is the Kurdish complaints are about the removal of experienced, competant, full/overstrength, and Kurdish commanded Iraqi Army brigades from Kurdish claimed territory so that they can cover the security for the elections in Salahadin Province. All of the experienced brigades in 4th and 12th Iraqi Army Divisions are now in Salahadin for the elections.

Meanwhile two new, inexperienced, understrength, and not Kurdish commanded Iraqi Army brigades remain to cover Kirkuk under their like-wise green divisional staff. The movements and activities of the 12th Division are the same field training activity expected out of any new units. Kirkuk is not holding elections and is reasonably stable for now. That is why it is used as a training area.

The Kurdish press and politicians claims are nothing more than “crying wolf” over the movements of a newborn puppy learning to walk. It reflects more on the Kurdish paranoia over the new Iraqi Army more than it represents reality.

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  • Neo says:

    Yes, that’s the right sentence.
    The construction of the sentence is technically correct, but was initially a little confusing because it contains two related declarations. First: “They are a redistribution of experienced Iraqi Army units to Salahadin to support elections”

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Only 14 of the provinces are having elections this round. The exceptions are the KRG and Kirkuk.
    It was part of the deal that allowed the elections to proceed.
    Postpone the Kirkuk mess and disconnect it with these elections…

  • Neo says:

    Got it. The Kurds seem to be confused by all the details too, so why should I be just as confused.

  • Neo says:

    should — shouldn’t
    I quit!

  • DJ Elliott says:

    You should see my first drafts.
    Especially when I am writing a brainstorm fueled by Newcastle and Roly Churchills.
    I usually wait until the orange juice and hangover to clean those articles up for the editors.
    Except those that I just nuke as unsalvagable…

  • Armanj says:

    DJ Elliot do you not find it strange that you are aware of all these developments and training procedures yet the Kurdistan Regional Government hasn’t been notified?
    If the KRG are “crying wolf” as you state and are paranoid, I would not blame them, as it’s obvious they have not been told about the nature of these movements in highly sensitive areas.
    Maybe if Maliki and his central government posse did a better job at communicating well with their coalition partners then their would be no reason for articles such as the one in the Kurdish Globe to appear.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    1. Kirkuk is not part of the KRG. The IA and GoI is under no obligation to notify the KRG about security movements of IA units outside of the KRG. The 12th Division is the army force that is responsible for the security of Kirkuk. The KRG is not.
    2. These movements and the recent graduation and newbe/green status of 12th Div are public knowledge. If the Kurdish Globe and Kurdish politicians choose to interpret them as hostile, that is their paranoia.
    3. The alert of Kurdish forces has nothing to do with the movements of 12th Div. All Iraqi (including Kurdish) forces are on alert for the expected violence during and after the elections. The Kurdish Globe’s claim that KRG forces are on alert because of IA forces intruding is pure Kurdish Nationalistic propaganda.
    4. This is not the first time that Kurdish Nationalistic spin has been put on minor or normal security operations ongoing outside of the KRG.
    5. This sort of political handwringing and exageration during the election season is fairly common in most countries. Pure political showmanship.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    The movements of ISF to Salahadin for the elections fits with the same type of redistibution of forces thruout Iraq for the elections.
    What is interesting about those movements is that it confirms that the GoI/IMoD consider Kirkuk fairly secure. Secure enough that they are leaving its security in the hands of two newly commisioned and understrength IA brigades and the local police.
    Keep in mind that the US pulled all but a battalion of its “combat” troops out of Kirkuk too. The US brigade in the same area as 12th IA Division is not a Brigade Combat Team. It is the 18th Engineer Brigade with the 1-67 Armored Battalion attached.
    Kirkuk would be PIC if it was not for the nationalistic political arm-wrestling of the KRG and GoI.
    Judging from the use of Kirkuk as a secure area to shakedown new army brigades, the GoI is not looking at using direct force to deal with the Kirkuk issue. Which means the GoI side expects to settle the Kirkuk issue via negotiations.
    The only side claiming force and saber-rattling on this is the Kurdish side…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    jack winters:
    I think I will wait until the sale is final and delivery is being made.
    E.G. “According to the commanding general of the Iraq Air Force, MOD is only in discussions with South Korea on the purchase of TA-50 aircraft. There is no agreement, no quantity, and no schedule at this time.”
    It would not be surprising if the INP bought more armor. After all, they have three to four mech divs to equip.
    But, they are shopping around, not necissarily buying. Wait for confirmed sales…

  • taylor says:

    DJ– a quick note on your comments– your post on the 24th was accurate on the US forces in the area, its not anymore, in fact there will be soon more here than at any time during the surge. Also the 15th IA brigade stayed in Kirkuk to continue to secure the populace. I’m not sold that Kirkuk is as safe as everyone thinks it is, attacks still occur on a daily basis, bodies show up on the sides of roads no and again as well. Look for the GOI to boost the security in Kirkuk after the national elections, and before the al Tamin province elections in March. I believe this is exactly what the MNF-I had in mind as they have bolstered forces in the area.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    The arrival of the 2/1 Cav BCT (-) is not the largest force in Kirkuk. Just the largest force since 1/10 BCT departed last year as part of the drawdown from the surge…


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