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The Unauthorized Third Leg of the Troika



Link to larger map. 


[Disclaimer:  This is a speculation piece.  If 60 percent of this turns out correct, I will consider it good.  Until (if) the Counter-terrorism Law is passed and a legal structure authorized, this force is limited to what the Prime Minister’s Emergency Fund can support.]


Unity of command is stressed by militaries because; divided command structures have cost battles and wars throughout history. So why are militaries, especially ground forces, not unified?


There is a rarely discussed factor about military organization and why it is almost always divided. "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." Concentration of military power in one organization, especially ground forces, invites military coups and dictatorships. Even splitting the forces [power] between 2 ministries just means that the more powerful ministry gets to choose the dictator.


The catch is that overly divided militaries leave a country’s armed forces weak and dysfunctional in the face of foreign attack. 

The ground forces and communications are the key elements for military coups. The most common compromise made to reduce the possibility of a coup while reducing the disruption of a divided command is to divide the ground forces into three separate components with the better-trained components being smaller to balance them. The smallest and most elite of these component ground forces is usually given the honor of guarding the government [praetorians]. This forces any potential dictator to gain control at least two of the three ground forces to secure power or to perform a coup. Rivalry between these forces is usually encouraged, as they may be called on to shoot at each other in event of an attempted coup.


This is true of all types of governments, whether they be dictatorships, republics, or democracies.  In the US, the Troika was established by President Washington after the Continental Army offered him the Kingdom at least 3 times.  He established the division of US ground forces into the State Militias [National Guard], the Continental Army [US Army], and the US Marine Corps.  The USMC, as the smallest and most elite force, received the honor of guarding the White House and the US Embassies. With the exception of the civil-war, when both the Army and the States Militias split on regional lines, this has been an effective deterrent to military rule in the US.


In Iraq, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) controls the largest ground forces in personnel size. The Iraqi MoI currently includes the Iraqi Police, Federal Police (FP), Emergency Response Force (ERF), Department of Border Enforcement (DBE), Customs Police, Oil Police Directorate, and Facilities Protection Service. Three of those services [FP, ERF, and DBE] have a secondary role augmenting the Iraqi Army in event of a mobilization against a foreign threat.


The Iraqi MoI has more than twice as many personnel as the Ministry of Defense (MoD). However, the MoI forces are dispersed and relatively lightly armed compared to the MoD forces.  The MoD currently includes the Iraqi Army (IA), Air Force, Navy, and Marines.


Then there is the delayed but slowly evolving third leg of this troika: The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), which operates as a de facto third ground force but, has not been legally authorized by the Iraqi Parliament in the 3 years since the Office of the Commander-in-Chief [Prime Minister] established it.

Counter Terrorism Service


The Counter Terrorism Bureau was first proposed over 3 years ago.  The Prime Minister apparently thought that the Counter Terrorism Law authorizing this new ministry would pass in short order, since the operational command of the IA’s Iraqi Special Operations Force was shifted to the CTB.  The Iraqi Parliament did not agree.


There has been a resistance to any organization that appears to be a new Republican Guard.  This has hamstrung development of this service and left the Ministries of Interior and Defense officially splitting power of the armed services.  However, there are major elements of the MoD/MoI that are not under their ministry’s control – just as ISOF has not been under the IA’s operational control since it was assigned to the CTB [Since renamed the Counter Terrorism Service.].  Those potential additions to the CTS, if and when the Counter Terrorism Law is passed, are described below:


Ministry of Defense elements


While there are signs of additional divisions forming in the Iraqi Army, the Minister of Defense is talking about a reduction in the size of the Iraqi Army.  His comments do not make sense until you realize that:

  1. There are 3 division-equivalents of personnel that are probably transferring to the CTS from the IA. 
  2. Most of the elements for the planned additional 4 IA divisions are already built – all but 1 IA division has more than the standard numbers of line battalions.  The IA is at least 29 battalions over standard strength for the current 14 commissioned Divisions [35 by my count].  That accounts for 2 of the 4 planned additional divisions.  The 2 planned mountain divisions already have manning from the KRG under IA training.


Iraqi Special Operations Force: 

ISOF is the only combat force assigned to the CTS at this point.  The planned size of this element is 5 brigades.  Based on the 1st ISOF Brigade structure and reported BTR80 training, these 5 brigades are to include a HQ Battalion, Support Battalion, and 3 combat battalions.  The combat battalions are to be an air mobile battalion trained in close-quarters assault, a light mechanized commando battalion for perimeter security, and intelligence/reconnaissance battalion.


The delay in authorizing the CTS has also delayed the expansion of ISOF.  The IA is only providing minimal support to this nominal subordinate since they expect to lose it.  This has hindered development of the best force in the ISF.  While ISOF has its own recruiting and training program separate from the IA, the IA is supposed to eventually transfer 1,800 personnel to ISOF.  This transfer has been delayed for over a year now.


Presidential Brigades: 

The 2 Presidential Brigades are officially IA but, are under the control of the National Operations Center and responsible for protection of the President, Vice-Presidents, and Prime Minister.  Their assigned role does not fit with the duties of the IA.  Personal security of governmental officials is more in line with the duties of the CTS.


Independent Protection Battalions: 

The 14 Independent Protection Battalions are officially IA but, are under the control of the National Operations Center and responsible for protection of members of the Council of Ministers and the Council of Representatives.  Their assigned role does not fit with the duties of the IA.  Personal security of governmental officials is more in line with the duties of the CTS.


56th IA Mechanized Brigade: 

The 56th Brigade is administratively part of the IA 6th Division but, is under the control of the National Operations Center and responsible for perimeter security of the International Zone.  Their assigned role does not fit with the duties of the IA.  Personal security of governmental facilities is more in line with the duties of the CTS.


37th IA Light Mechanized Brigade elements: 

ISOF has had personnel trained in maintaining BTR80s for over a year now but, ISOF does not have BTR80s.  The only ISF BTR80s are in the IA’s 1-37, 2-37, and 3-37 Battalions plus the 4-1 FP Mechanized Battalion [BTR94 variant].  The 37th has already started to receive tanks to replace their BTRs but, in separate battalions.  This could mean some or all of the BTR80 and EE9 personnel in 37th Brigade are transferring to CTS/ISOF with their armor.  The IA has been reportedly postponing transferring 1,800 IA personnel to ISOF for over a year now.  1,800 personnel fit for the transfer of those 4 Lt Mechanized/Lt Armored Recon Battalions from the 37th to ISOF.


Ministry of Interior elements


Like the MoD, there are elements of the MoI that are more in line with the CTS roles/missions.  There are 3-4 division-equivalents of ERF [MoI SOF] and 1 security division-equivalent of FP that are likely candidates for transfer to the CTS.


Emergency Response Force: 

The ERF is officially part of MoI but, like the IA’s 14 Protection Battalions, 2 Presidential Brigades, and the 56th Brigade, the ERF is under the direct command of the National Operation Center.  The ERF’s role is the same as ISOF’s except they operate as the local response forces.  At least 6 brigades of the ERF are formed and this force is continuing to expand by absorbing, retraining, and reorganizing the better 50 percent of the local SWAT trained Emergency Response Unit Battalions.  Eventual ERF strength is expected to be 12-15 brigades.


Federal Police Security Brigades:

There are 3 security force brigades under the FP that are more in keeping with the CTS duties.  The Ruins and Antiquities Security Force is responsible for protecting artifacts that can be stole to provide funding for terrorism.  The Central Bank Security Force guards the bank – again a source/target for funding terrorism.  The Embassy Security Force guards foreign embassies in the International Zone – a favorite target for terrorism.


4-1 FP Mechanized Battalion:

ISOF has had personnel trained in maintaining BTR80s but, ISOF does not have BTR80s.  The only ISF BTR80s are in the IA’s 1-37, 2-37, and 3-37 Battalions plus the 4-1 FP Mechanized Battalion [BTR94 variant].  This could mean some or all of the BTR94s are transferring to CTS/ISOF.


Wartime and Peacetime roles/organization of the CTS


The peacetime role of the CTS is high end counter-terrorism - internal security.  They are also the de facto praetorian force to prevent military coups.  To perform these roles, they require legislation authorizing them and transfers of MoD/MoI formations currently filling these roles.


CTS is unlikely to organize most of its commando forces into divisions since, in wartime mobilization, they provide 2 commando brigades of ISOF/ERF to each of the frontal corps.  The Baghdad based Brigades may be organized into a Special Operations Division composed of 56th Mechanized Brigade, 1st ISOF Brigade, and 2 ERF Brigades as part of the central reserve.  The security/protection forces are unlikely to change roles in wartime – only the ISOF, ERF, and 56th Mechanized Brigades would have a wartime front-line combat role.


If all of the above elements are incorporated into the CTS then the force would probably become an 8 division-equivalent sized service composed of [probable is 65 and possible is 35 percent]:

  • 5 ISOF Commando Brigades [already happening – 1 division-equivalent].
  • 12-15 ERF Commando Brigades [probable – 3-4 division-equivalents].
  • 1 Mechanized Brigade – 56th [probable].
  • 2 Personal Security Divisions or division-equivalents - Presidential and Council [possible].
  • 1 Facilities Security Division – Bank, Embassy, and Antiquities [possible]


If the commando elements are organized into regional divisions, then the 5 ISOF Brigades are likely to be the regional/divisional quick reactions force while the 12-15 ERF Brigades operate as local QRFs.


The CTS is not a legal service yet but, if and when it is authorized, it will grow rapidly to a 5-8 division-equivalent force – the elite third ground force to balance the MoD’s and MoI’s combat forces.


DJ Elliott