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Iraqi Army Reorganization

 IA divswap

The Iraqi Army is continuing to increase in size, restructuring to fill its mission of external defense.  Now the Iraqi Army appears to be redeploying/rotating most, if not all, of the Iraqi Army divisions to support training, operations, and to break any untoward local political or criminal influence.


In December 2009, the Kurdish press reported the planned transfer of the Iraqi Army’s 6th Division from Baghdad to Ninawa and the 10th Division from southern Iraq to Kirkuk.  This indicated 2 planned rotations:  6th Division in NW Baghdad swapping areas with 2nd Division in Mosul and 10th Division in DhiQar swapping with 12th Division in Kirkuk.  Both of these transfers would facilitate training by moving well trained divisions to hot zones for experience while moving divisions in hot zones to quieter areas where they could receive advanced training.


The Kurdish report was just the tip of the iceberg and not the first division planned to move.  The Location Command at Tikrit recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new facilities.  The 4th Division’s commanding officer was not reported at this ceremony despite this being in his headquarters area.  The senior Iraqi Army officer present was erroneously described as the “commander of the Iraqi Army's 4th Brigade, 6th Army Division.”


Brigadier General Ali Jassim was the commander of the 4/6 Brigade prior to its renaming as the 25th Brigade by Iraqi Ministry of Defense order 151, dated 19 February 2008.  He remained in command when, in June 2008, the 25th Brigade became the 17th Division, headquartered at Kalsu and responsible for southern Baghdad and northern Babil provinces.   The most likely reason why he was at Tikrit for a ribbon-cutting for the new facilities and the commander of 4th Division was not, is that 17th Division is in the process of replacing the 4th Division in Salahadin province.


The Iraqi Army probably plans to swap all 5 of its divisions in the north [hot zone] with divisions from southern Iraq and Baghdad.  So far, the plan looks like:

  • 17th Division [south Baghdad] swaps with 4th Division [Salahadin] so that 4th Divison can go to Commando School at Kalsu and receive other advanced training.
  • 6th Division [NW Baghdad] swaps with 2nd Division [Mosul] so that 2nd Division can also get airmobile and advanced training.  Note:   56th Brigade is only administratively assigned to 6th Division and will not be leaving the International Zone.  The 56th Brigade appears to be in the process of upgrading with T72 tanks and M113 armored personnel carriers.
  • 10th Division [Maysan/DhiQar/Muthanna] swaps with 12th Division [Kirkuk] so that 12th Division can get advanced training.


The other 2 divisions in the north, the 3rd Division [western Ninawa] and 5th Division [Diyala] have no replacements identified at this time.


It is unlikely that 1st, 7th, or 9th Divisions of the Quick Intervention Corps are moving, since they already provide battalion/brigade deployments all over Iraq and train when in home garrison.  They are the Iraqi Army’s strategic.  Besides which, the 9th Division is in armor upgrade to M1A1 tanks and M1126 Strykers and thus is tethered to the training facilities in Taji and Besmaya.  That leaves 8th Division [Wasit/Babil/Qadisayah/Karbala/Najaf], 11th Division [east Baghdad], and 14th Division [Basrah] available to swap for 3rd and 5th Divisions in the north:

  • 11th Division is the greenest; it is unlikely that this division is moving.
  • 8th Division has elements receiving BMP1 training which makes sense for armor augment to either a western Ninawa or Diyala redeployment.  Alternatively, those armor elements may be detaching to start forming 19th Division.  Replacement of the 3rd Division in western Ninawa by 8th Division is most likely.
  • 14th Division is also available.  Its most likely redeployment is to replace 5th Division in Diyala. 


While the sequencing and timing is not public knowledge, it looks like the 17th/4th Division swap is in-progress.  It is unlikely that more than one swap will be in performed at a time.  Each swap will probably take 1 to 2 months.


From a training perspective, this planned move is overdue.  It provides the divisions with experience in deploying the entire division.  None of the Iraqi Army divisions has ever done a full divisional redeployment.  The closest and only time any of the divisions conducted such a large scale deployment was when 1st Division took 2 of its brigades and a brigade from the 7th Division from Anbar to Basrah in an emergency deployment in 2007.  No other Iraqi Army division has ever redeployed more than a brigade over a large distance.  A deployment at this scale exercises their ability to mobilize divisions and redeploy to the threatened areas as needed.


From a political perspective it is also well overdue.  The longer a division stays in one area, the more likely it is to develop corrupting political and/or criminal contacts with the locals.


As part of this rotation, it is likely that some formations will be rotated through Besmaya for training and re-equipping.  This is especially likely since the 9th Armored Division is transferring its older armor to other units as they replace their older tanks with M1A1s and its armored personnel carriers with M1126 Strykers.  Personnel from 6 divisions and ISOF have already been reported receiving BTR80/BMP1 maintenance training and the 56th Brigade has been receiving M113 crew training at Besmaya.  There are also indications of T72s transferring to the 56th Brigade.  Splitting off battalions from the transferring divisions to upgrade them at Besmaya’s Armor School to armor or mechanized would be practical.


The Iraqi Army many be restructuring and standardizing divisions as part of these redeployments.  By removing the battalions that are excess to standard organization in the divisions during their rotations, they could organize them into new brigades to start the formation of the 18th and 19th Divisions. Those 2 divisions are planned to be mechanized, which means they may get issued some of the old armor from 9th Armored Division as part of this.  The training, upgrade, and new equipment issue would be done under the Unit Set Fielding program at Besmaya.


According to the Montrose Toast Iraqi Order of Battle, the 14 commissioned Iraqi Army Divisions are 29 battalions over standard strength.  Some of those battalions have been disestablished, converted to field artillery, or converted to other support functions.  This total does not include the 2 Mountain Divisions transferring to the Iraqi Army from the Peshmerga, ISOF, or the security battalions.

  • 17th Division is short 3 battalions [missing a brigade] from standard organization.  This is the only commissioned division in the Iraqi Army that is short combat battalions.  They will probably fill out their structure with battalions from the over strength forces such as the 4th Division which they are replacing.
  • 1st and 7th Divisions are standard organization with 12 combat battalions each.
  • 6th, 10th, and 14th Divisions are each 1 battalion over standard strength.  In 6th Division, the 56th Mechanized Brigade is not included in these numbers since its attachment is for admin purposes only – the 56th Brigade is effectively the armor portion of the forming Presidential Security Division.  The excess battalion in 14th Division has been receiving riverine training and appears to be transferring to the new Iraqi Marine Brigade that is forming.
  • 11th and 12th Divisions are each 2 battalions over standard strength.
  • 3rd and 5th Divisions are each 3 battalions over standard strength.
  • 2nd Division is 4 battalions over standard strength.
  • 4th, 8th and 9th Divisions are each 5 battalions over standard strength.


The information from the last 9010 Report was that there are 189 battalions in these 14 divisions as of 30 November 2009.  Standard organizational strength for each of the 14 Iraqi Army divisions is 12 combat battalions, for a total of 168.  That is 21 battalions over standard organization and confirms that most of the excess battalions listed above still exist.   Those numbers do not include the security battalions in the 2 Presidential Brigades [6], 56th Brigade [3], the 15 independent protection battalions, ISOF [7], Iraqi Marines [2], or the 2 mountain divisions transferring to the Iraqi Army from the Peshmerga [24].


The combat battalions in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Divisions were authorized 135 percent manning prior to the budget crunch in the fall of 2008.  The remaindering Iraqi Army divisions were authorized 120 percent manning in combat battalions.  The Iraqi Army has been forming new battalions and brigades with this excess manning all during the budget freeze.  These excess battalions probably will be used to form the 18th and 19th Divisions during the next 1 to 2 years.


This brings the Iraqi Army up to 20 Divisions by 2012 [including the 2 security divisions].  The combat battalions already exist; however, the headquarters and support structure require further reorganization, training, equipping, and development.

DJ Elliott