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This is an update to last year’s article. The major changes are the elimination of the previously planned new IA divisions, the start of mechanizing of 2 IA divisions, the addition of another corps-level Joint Operational Command, further indications of additional planned mechanized/armor upgrades, and indications of planned wartime redeployments.
Forward defense is Iraq’s only real option. Too many key areas are close to the Iranian border. However, Iraq does not have the force to successfully defend Iraq against a conventional invasion. The ISF is trained and equipped for internal security – not external. Iraq is fair game to any and all of its neighbors with the USF-I withdraw. Any neighbor invading could occupy Iraq in less than 2 weeks at this point.
As depicted on the map, the forward defense planned by the Iraqi Security Forces utilizes the Total Mobilization Concept. The Department of Border Enforcement provides the forward screen with a mix of Iraqi Army, Iraqi Federal Police, and Kurdish Regional Guards providing the primary infantry line. The Iraqi Army plans to add significant armor to its force so that it’s mechanized and armor divisions can operate as corps/army reserve to react to any enemy breakthrough. Supporting those heavy divisions will be the limited Army Aviation working with the Iraqi Special Operations Force brigades and the MoI’s Emergency Response Force brigades as part of the quick reaction forces. However, all of these forces are not ready for external defense. They would be only a speed-bump to the Iranian forces at this point. To put it into perspective, the 3-phase Iraqi Ministry of Defense plan is:
- Tactical Independence (2006-2010) – Internal security, effectively done.
- Operational Independence (2011-2015) – Will not meet the schedule. IA needs to be out of internal security operations by then and the FP will not be ready to take over in time. Also, the FP needs to train and equip for its secondary role as infantry in external defense.
- Strategic Independence (2016-2020) – Will not meet the schedule. This requires a functional and credible air defense, at least 6 heavy IA divisions, and the FP trained/equipped for its secondary role of external security. The first fighter squadron will not be operational until 2016-2017 and Iraq needs a minimum of 5 squadrons to provide a minimum air defense. Iraqi officers are now talking 2024-2027 for completion of this plan.
Each of the services are at differing points in the development time-line, almost none of them are really on schedule.
The Iraqi Army is in early Phase 2 with the armor and artillery programs behind schedule. The Iraqi Army is still re-equipping and training the 9th Armored Division for external defense, and has started to mechanize and provide howitzers to 3 other divisions.
The IA has only 14 divisions and 2 security division equivalents [President and Council]. Only 1 armored division exists and that is in M1A1/M113/BTR4 conversion training [9th Armor Division]. The new M113s and the BTR4s only started to arrive in late summer. The 9th Armored Division upgrade is priority followed by the mechanization of 5th and 7th Divisions. While the 155mm howitzers have been delivered, they are only 144 total. The IA is distributing them among 3 divisions [3rd, 5th, and 9th] which indicate a planned 48 howitzers per division with 24 Multiple Rocket Launchers to fill out the field artillery.
The 14 IA divisions are planned to be 3 armored, 6 mechanized infantry, and 5 motorized infantry, plus 2 security division-equivalents. All except 3 divisions are missing their howitzers and some of their other necessary support components. The planned armor and mechanized upgrades will not be completed by 2020. Too much of the budget is needed for air defense to upgrade more than 6 divisions to mechanized/armor and Iraq still does not have enough tanks for the 2 mechanized divisions currently upgrading.
Iraqi Air Force
The Iraqi Air Force is in late-Phase 1 and will not be starting Phase 2 until it starts to field an air defense with teeth.
The first fighters are not expected to start to deliver until 2014. A minimum of 5 fighter squadrons are necessary for Iraqi air defense – preferably 8-10. Given delivery and training time, the minimum needed 5 squadrons could be operational by 2022 – barring any further delays. This also requires further development of the base support structure. Iraq appears to have settled on F16C/D Block 52 for its primary fighter and Czech L159s for its armed jet trainers.
To date, no SAM-based air defense has been ordered. The earliest SAMs could be added is 2013-2014 and sufficient numbers/training/support would push their effective operational date to 2017-2020.
Iraqi Navy and Marines
The Iraqi Navy and Marines are in Phase 2 but, that in more a factor of their limited objectives. The Marines still need to expand to a division-sized force to cover the expanding Al Faw ports and the Navy needs missile boats and coastal defense missiles. The existing force is gun armed.
Iraqi Special Operations Force/Emergency Response Force
ISOF is in Phase 2 but, the expansion to 5 brigades is slow and facing delays. The ERF is in Phase 1 and facing similar problems to ISOF. Screening, training and expanding by taking in the best 50 percent of the province SWAT forces is not a fast program.
The Iraqi Special Operations Force and the Emergency Response Force are a division-equivalent in size but, mostly dispersed in battalion-sized detachments. Both forces are expanding slowly to a probably planned 5 ISOF and 14-15 ERF brigades. This will be a slow expansion, probably not complete until 2019-2022. In wartime these forces would be assigned to corps or army headquarters as airmobile quick reaction forces and reconnaissance forces.
The Federal Police is in early to mid-Phase 1. The FP is in the process of forming its 5th and 6th Divisions out of part of the provincial emergency police and part of the 30,000 Kurdish Zerevani that are transferring to the Iraqi MoI. This is less than half of the 14-16 planned Federal Police divisions being built by retraining/re-equipping the existing provincial emergency police. Until the FP finishes this “Nationalization” program, they will not be training or equipping for their secondary external security role [Phase 2].
4 of 14-16 planned FP Divisions exist at this time with 2 more forming. These ~15 divisions are planned to be 14-15 [truck] Motorized Infantry and 1 Security Division. These new divisions are being formed by transferring, retraining, and re-equipping existing Province Paramilitary forces. This will probably not be done until after 2017, after which training on their secondary external defense role will commence.
Department of Border Enforcement
The DBE is also in Phase 1. They are short 5 brigades in strength and the DBE has few mobile units – they are based on fixed border fortifications. This makes its function as a forward screen a very short-lived one in event of an attack. They are also missing field artillery and mortars. The 5 existing under strength DBE Divisions are mostly static forces tied to their border “forts”.
Ministry of Interior Aviation
Ministry of Interior Aviation is in Phase 0. They are still trying to order their first aircraft.
Oil Police Directorate
OPD is in early Phase 1. At this point the OPD is 4 under strength Oil Police division-equivalents. For now, these are static forces; however, there are reports of vehicles and training that could convert them into a more capable mobile force. However, the loss of NTM-I Caribinieri training with NATO’s withdraw will hurt their development. Due to the importance of guarding the oil infrastructure – these forces are unlikely to be used in external security. They will be rear-area security releasing the IA from securing the all-important oil infrastructure.
Facilities Protection Service
The Facilities Protection Force is at Phase 0.5 – they probably will never be more than “rent-a-cops” at best. The 3 forming Facilities Police divisions are low capability static security and unlikely to be used in external security.
Kurdish Regional Guards
The Kurdish Regional Guards are Phase 2 but, have lost their US trainers with the USF-I withdraw. In addition to the planned 6th FP Division and I DBE Region [Division] being manned or to be manned by the Peshmerga, there are 21 Regional Guards Brigades being organized on standard IA structure. 4 of these mountain infantry brigades are considered operational and 8 more are in various stages of training and organization. The 21 planned Regional Guards Brigades are being formed by combining PUK and KDP smaller sized “brigades” and forming more conventional standard sized brigades. KRG forces are restricted to Kurdish areas unless the Kurdish Regional Government agrees to their deployment. Total forces in the Kurdish Region are 5 division equivalents – only 1 properly trained/equipped.
The ISF is developing but, budget issues and politics has delayed many key components. The planned schedules have slid to 2017 for Phase 2 [Operational Independence] and 2024-2027 for Phase 3 [Strategic Independence]. Air defense is still the major issue and the price-tag associated with air defense will impact any plans for other purchases. Without the essential air defense, everything else is just targets…
- November 17, 2010: ISF Total Force Mobilization Update November 2010
- December 26, 2010: Iraqi Aviation Update December 2010
- January 16, 2011: Thoughts on ISF Development and Iraq's Ability to Defend Itself
- March 21, 2011: Iraqi Logistics - The Missing Links
- July 10, 2011: The Missing Links – A Realistic Appraisal of the Iraqi Army
- August 15, 2011: Iraqi Armor Status August 2011
- Iraqi Security Force Order of Battle [updated monthly]
good update as always. however the question remains... what to do for the next DECADE AND A HALF until the military is fully stood up? it seems Iraq will be under de-facto foreign control way before that happens, unless there is some "secret" defence pact with the US that we know nothing about!
sheytanelkebir (12/26/2011 03:10:20)
The US doesn't do "secret defense pacts". It's not a defense pact unless the Senate confirms it. Nothing stays secret with that many politicians in the know. //// Now the GCC or Turkey or Jordan.... Those are different countries with different rules.
DJ Elliott (12/27/2011 01:32:40)
so looking for a annual update ?
Almaleki (01/01/2012 03:13:12)
You know perfectly well that I don't do annual updates. Probably do the next monthly update in a few days. Have to recover from New Years first. /// Other than the TFM update last month, I don't have enough data to write updates on the rest of the forces. The GoI news blackout in the ISF has gotten tighter over the last year. Just look at the locations for the units in the OOB - those in black are over a year old...
DJ Elliott (01/01/2012 06:19:23)