Monday, June 9, 2008

The Iraqi Army

A little more than a month ago I posted about how the Iraqi army is growing in an well-organized manner. Some additional details might be of interest. I pulled the following information from

Improvements in the Iraqi Army:

• Initial force planning and the intelligence estimates of the threat in Basrah were incorrect. However, in subsequent operations, in Sadr City, this failure seems to have been addressed.

• The Iraqi Army response, moving a division of reinforcements to Basrah in five days, demonstrated a monumental improvement in operational logistics and mobility over 18 months previous.

• One Iraqi battalion broke, It was a new battalion (1-52) in a green brigade (52nd) that had graduated training a month previously. This was presented in the press as a symbol of the lack of capabilities of the Iraqi Army. What it represented was the low end of the Iraqi Army - the capabilities of recruits fresh out of boot camp. A classic example of why it takes time to grow an army. The 1-52 Battalion has since reformed and is receiving urban combat training. On the other hand, the performance of the experienced units, such as the 1st Quick Reaction Force was significantly better.

• The ability of the ISF to defeat the recent uprising in most of southern Iraq and to contain Sadr City until sufficient forces were available to deal with that area, despite elements from Baghdad, Babil, and Karbala being temporarily deployed to Basrah, demonstrate the improvements to the ISF overall.

• The Army has now demonstrated the ability to simultaneously operate three separate corps level operations (Baghdad, Mosul, and Basrah). Eighteen months ago they did not have a functional corps command.

• The Army has demonstrated the ability to move a division of reinforcements anywhere in the country within a week. It’s a major improvement over 18 months previous.

• The Ministry of Interior has demonstrated the ability to deploy a reinforced brigade anywhere in Iraq in a week. Significant improvement.

• The rapid deployment of Emergency Response Brigades and Iraqi National Police forces to Basrah and Mosul demonstrates major improvements in MoI forces mobility and capabilities, although their logistics are still lagging.

While these are monumental improvements over their previous performance and capabilities, significant weaknesses still have to be addressed:

• Logistics and intelligence are weak.

• The army will not start to acquire its first field artillery until 2009.

• Additional corps and support elements are being built and are needed for current force, but the force does need further expansion of line elements. The Iraqi Security forces are currently adding their fourth corps level joint command, Anbar Operational Command.

• Major increases in armored vehicles, especially tanks, are needed.

• The Iraqi Air Force is a decade from independence. It takes two years to train a pilot compared to only three months for an infantryman.

The ISF is better than many claim, but it still is a work in progress.

The plan for this year (2008) is: "The Iraqi Army will not stand up additional divisions this year as it is focusing efforts on building independent formations, and establishing support formations and corps headquarters."

Some of these new formations are engineering units, capable of building infrastructure such as roads, bridges and oil pipelines. Iraq has great need of these types of units. The recent fighting has demonstrated how the use of the new corps headquarters has helped demonstrate army’s ability to react and coordinate it’s units at a much-improved level. This shows how far they have progressed and also demonstrates that the leadership of the Iraqi army is well aware of their needs and abilities. Also that the leadership is addressing those needs in an organized and well-planned manner.

Even with these improvements, U.S. direct involvement in Iraq can be expected to extend into the foreseeable future. If these improvements continue, it will be less than a few years before the U.S. can begin withdrawing combat units from Iraq and deploying them elsewhere. Afghanistan is an obvious area of need, although I am uncertain as to how effective they will be in the mountain areas.

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