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Iraqi Logistics - The Missing Links

logistics march 2011

IA, FP, and DBE Logistics/Maintenance Units as of March 2011


Logistics is not sexy - it is tedious and boring to most people.  Logistics is also the essential component to any military operations.  “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.”  Without the beans, boots, and bullets – combat operations are impossible.


The Iraqi Army [IA] is organized on a modified US Army structure while the Ministry of Interior [MoI] paramilitary forces - the Federal Police [FP] and Department of Border Enforcement [DBE] are organized more on Italian Carabinarie structure.  Both structures normally have support, transport, and maintenance components at each level: 

  • Battalions have a Headquarters Support Company [HSC] with admin, supply, transport, and maintenance platoons.
  • Line and Field Artillery Brigades [Level 1] normally have a Sustainment Battalion including supply, transport, and maintenance companies.
  • Divisions [Level 2] normally have a Support Brigade including supply, transport, and maintenance battalions.
  • Corps’ [Level 3] normally have 1-2 Support Brigades each including supply, transport, and maintenance battalions.
  • Armies [Level 3] normally have a Support Force [division-equivalent] including supply, transport, and maintenance brigades.


Since the last summary on ISF Logistics in August 2009, ISF Level 1 and Level 3 logistics and support has not developed further resulting in major gaps in support.  The 4 IA Corps’ planned for forming in 2008-2011 have not materialized.  No new Brigade Support Battalions have been formed.


While these Level 1 and Level 3 support elements are not essential to an infantry force conducting counter-insergency, the ISF – especially the IA - is steadily motorizing and adding mechanized/armored elements without the essential additional support and maintenance components needed to support them.  The FP – already deficient in all levels of support and maintenance - has been absorbing, motorizing, and retraining the provincial paramilitary Emergency Brigades without a corresponding increase in support forces.  The DBE lags behind the FP in support force development with no effective Level 1, 3, or 4 components while expanding its motorized Commando Battalions.  MoI forces continue to piggyback heavily on IA support – adding further strain to the IA’s inadequate support and maintenance force.


While the ISF is still deficient in supply and maintenance, there have been improvements. The ISF has focused on improving Level 2 support over the last 18 months:

  • Expanding the IA divisional maintenance companies to battalions.  Most of the maintenance personnel are still apprentice level.
  • Standing up the IA Memona Support Brigade in Maysan. 
  • Completing the 17th Division’s Motor Transport Regiment, Support Battalion, and Maintenance Battalion.
  • Expanding and filling out the Taji National Depot [Level 4].
  • Forming the FP divisional Sustainment Battalions.
  • Standing up the FP Sustainment Brigade and its base at Salman Pak [Level 3 or part of future Level 4].
  • Building the DBE divisional Maintenance Battalions [sustainment battalions].


To make supply and maintenance matters worse, the ISF still operates on a pull system of support.  This means that subordinate units request support as needed and then wait.  The US Army works on a push system of support where higher commands anticipate and provides supplies and maintenance support in advance of need.


Level 1 Logistics and Maintenance.   The IA has been adding wheeled and mechanized vehicles to its battalions without adding the needed Brigade Support Battalions [BSBs].  Only 5 of the 59 IA and ISOF Brigades have BSBs while 25 of those 59 brigades have been sufficiently mechanized and/or motorized to warrant BSBs.  And the IA is adding at least 10 brigades of additional mechanized and armored vehicles to its structure over the next 2 years.  This is part of the reason for the press reports of IA units having more than half of their vehicles inoperable for maintenance and the regular reports of units having fuel shortages in an oil-exporting nation.


The MoI forces are in even worse condition – they trail the IA by 5 years in development.  The FP and Emergency Response Force is motorized yet does not have any BSBs in its 27 brigades.  While the DBE’s 15 brigades are mostly static defense, they are expanding the number of motorized Commando Battalions and are spread out over a large area and do not have BSBs.


Level 2 Logistics and Maintenance.  The IA is in good shape at this level and has even formed an additional Support Brigade for a new or relocating division in Maysan.  The only real weakness in the IA at this level is that the Location Commands [Sustainment Battalions are not subordinate to the Divisions – they are under the same command as the Taji National Depot.  This division of authority disrupts the supply of the divisions.


MoI forces only have 1 support battalion per division at this level while requiring a brigade and most of these support battalions have only formed in the last year.  Combined with the lack of Level 1 support, the MoI forces have no real Level 1 and grossly insufficient Level 2 sustainment.


Level 3 Logistics and Maintenance.  The establishment and expansion of Joint Operational Commands provides Corps-level command and control but, no corresponding support and maintenance at this level.  The IA planned to form 4 Corps starting in 2008 but, that has not happened.  The establishment of an FP Sustainment Brigade supports this Corps-sized force at this level but, the FP is expanding to a 3-Corps sized force and the FP Sustainment Brigade has not fully completed building and training.  The DBE piggybacks on the IA and FP at this level.


Level 4 Logistics and Maintenance.  Only the IA has a real Level 4 logistics and maintenance force.  MoI forces piggyback on the IA’s Taji National Depot.  Taji also has to double as the Level 3 support in the absence of IA Corps’ level supply and maintenance.  This means that Taji has to support 6 Corps-equivalents on its own – the equivalent of 2-3 Armies.


Kurdish Forces are not addressed due to lack of data concerning their logistics – they are reportedly being reorganized along western structure into 21 line brigades (a 4-5 division Corps-equivalent) plus 2 IA and 2 FP Divisions.  Iraqi Air and Naval support forces are also not addressed as they are base-centric and are developing their support in advance of their expansion – you have to have functional bases before you can have functional air and naval forces.


The IA has built about 40 percent of its needed logistics and maintenance force and the MoI has built about 10-20 percent.  This level of logistics capability is in accordance with the Iraqi Security Forces’ plan.  Phase 1 of ISF development was Tactical Independence which was achieved in 2010.  Phase 2 is Operational Independence and is planned to complete in 2015.  Phase 3 is Strategic Independence and is planned to complete by 2020.  The 2012 date for the withdrawal of US Forces was an arbitrary political date chosen by politicians that mistake the number of combat battalions for strength and do not understand how many essential support components have not been built yet. 


IA Support and Maintenance is adequate for peacetime or Low Intensity Conflict.  MoI support only functions by piggybacking on the IA and needs serious expansion.  In any Medium or High Intensity Conflict, supply of all the ISF ground forces would fail in short order.  A 50 percent down rate of vehicles may be acceptable in peacetime but, is a disaster in war.


Al Maliki: Re-read the posting rules. Also re-read the article: 15 Maint Bns, 2 LCs, 1 Training Ctr, 1 MTR, and filling out existing for the IA. 9 Sustainment Bns and a Sustainment Bde for MoI. At a period of time where there was a budget crunch freezing new hires into 2010. No money means no gain...

DJ Elliott (03/21/2011 12:06:28)


HI DJ the Iraqi navy has ordered another 3-6 swift ships patrol ships worth 43M$ the total number will reach 21 ships. here is the link // so what do you think?? why?

Jack Winters (03/23/2011 08:58:01)


Saw that. Makes sense. The old IqN had more PBs before we hammered them in 1991. What I find interesting is that the IqN appears to have a higher priority than the IqAF...

DJ Elliott (03/23/2011 11:25:24)

DJ Elliott