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ISF Total Force Mobilization Update July 2012


ISF Total Force Mobilization July 2012 


This is an update to the December 2011 Article.  The major change is that the consolidation of Operational Commands point toward 11 total ISF Corps in Wartime [10 Frontal/1 Reserve] and the 4 developing IA Peacetime Corps being the basis of the Wartime Army structure.  Diyala, Samarra, and Kirkuk Operational Commands are consolidating into the Tigris Command.  Karbala, Wasit, and Mid-Euphrates Operational Command have consolidated into the Furat Awsat Command.  Instead of expanding commands at the corps/army level, the ISF appears to be reducing them to a peacetime IA Corps structure.  Additionally, Kurdish elements are not being integrated – instead the KRG is building its own 2 corps army structure.  [ISF planned Wartime Structure appears to reflect late Iran-Iraq War Corps/Army Structure with fewer Divisions per corps.]


Forward defense is Iraq’s only real option.  Too many key areas are close to the Iranian border.  However, Iraq does not currently 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, Emergency 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 as part of the Army-level 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 probably 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 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.


Iraqi Army


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 other divisions.


The IA has only 14 divisions and 1 security division equivalent [Presidental].  Only 1 armored division exists as a Mech Division 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 of 2011.  The 9th Armored Division upgrade is priority followed by the mechanization of 5th and 7th Divisions and partial upgrades of 7 other 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 [each division] to fill out the field artillery.  Iraq is also refurbishing salvaged howitzers but numbers are unclear.  It is estimated that they have salvaged or received enough howitzers and MRLs to field: 

  • 1x FAR M109s,
  • 5x FAR M198s,
  • 1x FAR GHN45s,
  • 3x FAR Type83s,
  • 1x FAR M46,
  • 1x FAR D30, and
  • 1x FAR BM21. 


3 Field Artillery Regiments (FAR) per Division are required which means they have ~13 of 42 FARs needed - however some may be non-operational, only D30, M109, M198, and BM21 have been seen actually firing.  The salvaged howitzers are questionable – US surveys of the salvage yards in 2008 wrote them off.


The 14 current IA divisions are planned to be 11 heavy [probably 3 Armor/8 Mech] and 3-6 infantry [3 current-hints of 2-3 more, 1 Marine/1-2 Mountain], plus the Presidential Security Division-equivalent.  The 14-15 Independent Security Battalions for the Council of Representatives transferred to the Ministry of Interior.  Most 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 fully upgrade more than 6 divisions to mechanized/armor.  There have been no new tank purchases or deliveries.  Based on 3 armored and 8 mech divisions, the IA requires almost 2,200 tanks and currently has less than 350.  Iraq does not have anywhere near enough tanks for the 11 divisions currently upgrading.


While there have been suggestions of Russian/Chinese arms negotiations – there are no actual contracts.  This has been the norm since 2005 – rumors only.


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 contracted 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 has settled on F16C/D Block 52 for its primary fighter and is looking at armed jet trainers for light attack.


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.  Mention of Avenger Air Defense System and I-Hawk has been made but, no contracts have been awarded.


While there have been suggestions of Russian/Chinese arms negotiations – there are no actual contracts.  Other than Mi-17/171s, bought through the US FMS, no Russian or Chinese aircraft have been actually bought.  This has been the norm since 2005 – rumors only.


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-equivalents in size but, mostly dispersed in battalion-sized detachments.  Both forces are expanding slowly to a probably planned 5 ISOF and ~16 ERF brigades.  This will be a slow expansion, probably not complete until 2019-2022.  In wartime these forces would be assigned to corps [1-2 ERBs each] or army [1 ISOF Bde each] headquarters as airmobile quick reaction forces and reconnaissance forces.  ISOF may add or relocate a brigade to Diwaniyah based on the consolidation of Operational Commands – FAOC is the only OC without an ISOF base and ISOF planned to base elements there in 2008.


Federal Police


The Federal Police is in early to mid-Phase 1.  The FP is supposed to be in the process of forming its 5th Division out of part of the provincial emergency police and was to form a 6th Division out of part of the 30,000 Kurdish Zerevani that were transferring to the Iraqi MoI.  Neither has happened and the Zerevani are now reorganizing into 2 KRG subordinate division-equivalents.  Until the FP finishes this “Nationalization” program, they will not be training or equipping for their secondary external security role [Phase 2] as infantry.


4 of 12-14 planned FP Divisions exist at this time.  These ~13 divisions are planned to be 1 Light Mech, 11-12 [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.  Budget and procurement delays plus politics continue to plague this “Nationalization” program.


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.  There are indications of 2 new brigades being formed but, no confirmation.  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.  The KRG is further along in this than the Iraqi MoI.


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.  The Kurds were going to provide 30,000 Zerevani to Iraqi MoI for 2 FP Divisions and 30,000 to the IA to be formed into 2 Mountain Divisions while retaining 70,000 for 21 KRG Brigades and support.  Political disputes have cancelled those transfers and the KRG is retaining those elements.


In addition to the 2 Zerevani [Paramilitary Police] Divisions and I “Iraqi” DBE Region [Division], there are 24 Regional Guards Brigades [2 SOF/2 Mech/20 Infantry] being reorganized on standard IA structure plus a reserve of 8 more brigades [30,000] planned.  8 of these mountain infantry brigades are considered operational and 4 more are completing training.  The 24 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 Regional Guard are planned to be 6 active/2 reserve division equivalents with only 2 properly trained/equipped at this point plus the 2 Zerevani Divisions.  Of note, the KRG has the only Reserve program in Iraq and appear to be forming a de facto Aviation Brigade.




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…


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DJ Elliott