August 4, 2008 | Op-ed

Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle: August 2008 Update

Iraqi and Coalition forces Order of Battle as of July 31, 2008.

The August 2008 updates to the Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle are now available at the ISF OOB homepage. The significant changes to the Order of Battle that occurred in July are summarized below. There are major changes to the order of battle pages and map due to new formations, re-subordinations, and reorganizations.

ISF Weapons and Support Purchases. The Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program notified the US Congress of Iraqi government plans to purchase up to $10.8 billion worth of weapons, equipment, and support services in the last week of this month, including enough armor for a division equivalents and light attack helicopters.

'¢ On July 25, the first notice was of the possible $1.5 billion sale of six C-130J-30 aircraft, ancillary equipment, and support. On receipt, this triples the number of C-130s in the Iraqi inventory.
'¢ On July 28, the possible $206 million sale of 160 M1117 Armored Security Vehicles (ASVs), 4 Heavy Duty Recovery Trucks, ancillary equipment, and support was announced. This is two light mechanized brigades worth of these vehicles when the normal support vehicles are added. Considering how the Iraqi National Police is the only ISF user of these vehicles, the INP is the probable recipient.
'¢ On July 30, the possible $2.4 billion sale of light attack helicopters, probably for support of Iraqi Special Operations Forces and enough mortars to equip 28 Iraqi brigades and a training establishment was announced. The sale includes:

'¢ 24 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters or 24 Boeing AH-6 Helicopters
'¢ 565 M120 120mm Mortars
'¢ 665 M252 81mm Mortars
'¢ Plus weapons (including Hellfire), ammunition, spares and support

'¢ Also on July 30, the possible $1.6 billion sale of technical assistance for expanding and repairing Iraqi Security Force infrastructure was announced. “The scope of the program includes provision of technical assistance for Light Armored Vehicles, Range Facilities, Training Facilities, Tank Range Complex Facilities, and Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Facilities in support of Government of Iraq (GoI) construction projects throughout the country of Iraq.” This is the expansion of ranges and training facilities to support these purchases.
'¢ And again on July 30, the possible $3 billion sale of enough armor to equip four Light Armored Cavalry Brigades plus replacements for lost equipment was announced. It is not clear whether these LAVs are to replace earlier ordered BTR-3E1s or in addition to them.

'¢ 392 Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) which include 352 LAV-25, 24 LAV-CC, and 16 LAV-A (Ambulances); plus ammunition, support equipment and training.
'¢ Replacement equipment including: 5 LAV-R (Recovery), 4 LAV-L (Logistics), 2 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicles, 41 Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR), 2 MK19 40mm Grenade Machine Guns, 773 9mm Pistols, 93 M240G Machine Guns, and 10 AR-12 rifles.

'¢ On July 31, the possible $2.16 billion sale of enough tanks and support vehicles for two Armored Brigades minus armored personnel carriers was announced:

'¢ 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks modified and upgraded to the M1A1M Abrams configuration
'¢ 8 M88A2 Tank Recovery Vehicles
'¢ 4 M1151A1B1 Armored High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV)
'¢ 12 M577A2 Command Post Carriers
'¢ 16 M548A1 Tracked Logistics Vehicles
'¢ 8 M113A2 Armored Ambulances
'¢ 35 M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) Truck Tractors
'¢ 40 M978A2 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) Tankers
'¢ 36 M985A2 HEMTT Cargo Trucks
'¢ 4 M984A2 HEMTT Wrecker Trucks
'¢ 140 M1085A1 5-ton Cargo Trucks
'¢ 8 MMWV Ambulances w/ Shelter
'¢ 8 Contact Maintenance Trucks
'¢ Plus spare parts, support and training

The proposed purchase of equipment like M1 tanks and 120mm mortars indicates the Iraqi Army is beginning to look beyond its current role as a counterinsurgency army and is starting to build for its next (and ultimate) role as a national defense army defending its borders from external threats.

Iraqi Air Force. The Iraqi Air Force took delivery of eight more Cessna 172s and three Cessna Caravan 208s for training. The additional aircraft will allow more than 130 new pilots to train and graduate each year. “They will double in size within the next year, giving them up to 6,000 Airmen and 133 aircraft by the end of 2009.” The possible orders of six C-130Js, 24 light attack helicopters and their support equipment/weapons is part of that expansion.

Iraqi Navy. The Iraqi Navy is to start commissioning four Patrol Ships in Italy starting in April 2009. The ships will be commissioned at three-month intervals and the first is to arrive in Iraq in July 2009. The two Offshore Support Vessels and first three Patrol Boats (of 15) start arriving from Malaysia in September 2009. The Iraqi Marines formed the 2nd Marine Battalion when 500 Iraqi Army troops were transferred in March for the Basrah operations. The 1st Iraqi Marine Commando Battalion continues to perform the vessel board, search, and seizure role as well as platform security. The 2nd Iraqi Marine Security Battalion is the security element for the port of Umm Qasr and continues its training. The Navy/Marine force is planned to be 3,000 personnel by the end of 2010. It is planned to grow to 4,000-5,000 after that, depending on how large the Marines grow. This indicates the Marines are to grow to a brigade sized force. The ship “Al Shams” was recently taken delivery. It is an Offshore Support Vessel supporting the channel pilots and providing medical/security presence at the mouth of the channel approaching Umm Qasr.

Iraqi Army (IA) Force Development. On June 4, a senior Iraqi officer mentioned that “We have now over 16 military divisions….” This indicated that the Army had three more divisions than previously identified or that the officer misspoke. On July 4, the 17th Division was first mentioned along with the new formed 23/17 Brigade operating in south Baghdad Province. On July 7, the 2-25/17 Battalion was reported operating. These reports indicated that the oversized 25th Commando Brigade of the 6th Division had split into multiple brigades and was transferred to a new forming 17th Division. Further reports indicated the 22nd, 24th, and 54th Brigades in the city of Baghdad were retained by the 6th Division. It was finally announced on July 31 that the 17th Division was formed by splitting the southern Baghdad Province elements of the 6th Division off. This announcement also mentioned that a third brigade had already been formed from the oversized 25th Brigade and that the 25th Brigade commander was promoted to 17th Division commander. The 25th Brigade was a source of Iraqi Special Operations Force recruits and the 17th Commando Division will probably retain that role. The 25th Commando Brigade was responsible for commando training at Kalsu and all of its battalions have gone through this training. The adjacent 33/8 Brigade is also double standard strength and probably will split to provide the 17th Division its fourth maneuver brigade when a new brigade headquarters is formed. The other two divisions, which are not being mentioned, are the transferred 30,000 peshmerga. They are the 15th and 16th Divisions. Because of the political sensitivity of these Kurdish transfers, little information is available beyond their existence.

The orders of 565 M120 120mm Mortars and 665 M252 81mm Mortars represent the start of forming indirect fires elements for the battalions and brigades. Those are enough mortars to equip the mortar components of seven divisions and a training establishment. The sale of 392 Light Armored Vehicles and 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks is enough armor to equip a division equivalent. The Iraqi Army also continues to field new formations:

'¢ The 4-5/2 Infantry Battalion graduated from the Unit Set Fielding program in Ninawa on July 6.
'¢ The 53rd Brigade, 14th Infantry Division, graduated from the Unit Set Fielding program at Numaniyah Regional Training Center on July 2.
'¢ The 4-36/9 Mechanized Cavalry Battalion completed an advanced “warrior” training course at Camp Taji and was commissioned on July 10. This battalion is equipped with M113 ACAV variants and is the first-ever battalion of Iraqi soldiers to graduate from the Warfighter Training Course at the Phoenix Academy in Taji.
'¢ Additionally, the 4-34/9 Mechanized Cavalry Battalion is undergoing the same training at Taji. This battalion is equipped with Type 63 ACAV variants.
'¢ On July 26, the first operational report of the Presidential Brigade was mentioned in Baghdad.

Iraqi Special Operations Force (ISOF). The possible sale of 24 Bell Armed 407 Helicopters or 24 Boeing AH-6 Helicopters is probably intended for ISOF support. AH-6 “little birds” have been the standard US Special Operations light attack helicopter for decades. This probably means a second ISOF support squadron will be formed. The Counter-Terrorism Bureau is pending legislation to designate it a separate ministry, so any plans to expand beyond the current six battalions are unofficial. Until the legislation is passed and force levels authorized for the new ministry, no changes in force structure can be planned “right now“.

Iraqi National Police (INP). As predicted last month, the provincial SWAT Companies (CSWAT), Emergency Response Units (ERU), Emergency Battalions (EB), and Emergency Response Brigades (ERB) are becoming components of the National Police. In response to a request for information, Lieutenant Colonel Wellman, the Chief Public Affairs Officer of Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq said:

“It is my understanding that those units [Emergency Response Units/Brigades] are all being rolled into the National Police command but will have to confirm as well the details and precise chain of command. I have no info on the KRG stuff [Kurdish Special Police] that is releasable at this point.”


The transfer of elements of the Kurdish Special Police to the INP as part of this reorganization is under discussion on numbers and composition. These additions to the INP fit with the repeatedly stated plan to have an INP brigade in every province. By transferring these formations, they get a higher degree of support and training, while the INP expands to the size of the “objective counter-insurgency force” that the IA was built to at the end of 2006 (10 Divisions). This facilitates the take-over of internal security by the INP while the army concentrates on its primary role of external threats. The first of these provincial units already transferred are the Karbala National ERU, the Baghdad National ERU, and the Baghdad National ERB. The INP page and the OOB map have been changed to reflect these units.

Training continues in the INP with the 3-8/2 INP Battalion preparing for Phase III training, starting at the end of July after the 1-1/1 INP Battalion graduates. The1st INP Mechanized Brigade graduated from a 10-day Route-clearance training course in Baghdad's Rasheed District on July 19. This was the first INP brigade to receive this type of training. The above-mentioned possible sale of 160 M1117 Armored Security Vehicles (ASVs) and ancillary equipment/weapons is probably for the formation or conversion of two more INP mechanized Quick reaction brigades. One per existing/currently forming INP Divisions.

Department of Border Enforcement (DBE). The Coastal Border Guard (CBG) originally referred to as the Coast Guard and Inland Waterways Dept (CGIWD) has been rarely mentioned. In response to a request for information, Major L A H Jones, SO2 DBE, Multi-National Division-South East, provided the following information (edited for clarity):

'¢ The CBG is deployed on the rivers in DBE Region IV to combat riverine smuggling. Headquarters is in Al Mqil, and there are four groups under its command:


'¢ Al Faw Group
'¢ Shatt al Arab Group
'¢ Basra Group
'¢ Umm Qasr Group

'¢ They have responsibility for all inland waterways, north from the marsh areas of the Shatt-Al-Arab up to Cigar Island and from Buoy 36 in the Khor-Al-Amayah. They have approx 750 personnel and are commanded by Brigadier General Radim. Their Key Tasks are:

'¢ Patrolling inland waterways to interdict smuggling
'¢ Ship Port of Entry protection
'¢ Policing lawful entry points to Iraq for goods and persons

Speculation. What follows is pure speculation on the near future of Iraqi Security Forces. Recent developments suggest this scenario, but the final decisions can' t be predicted with certainty.

Until legislation is passed, any projection of ISOF expansion is guesswork. However, the structure of ISOF indicates an informally planned three-tier organization:

'¢ Tier one is the 2nd Counter-Terrorism Battalion. This is the “delta force” equivalent. Might expand but slowly. About 3 percent of commandos pass the course to join.
'¢ Tier two is the expansion to five regional commando brigades. Currently these are only battalions and two are still forming. The structure of their support indicates probable expansion to binary brigades.
'¢ Tier three is probably the National Police component. The transfer of one SWAT company or more per province would provide a local element on the ground. This would explain why USSOF is training 30 SWAT Companies.

The order of 140 M1A1s and 392 LAVs corresponds to an existing Iraqi Army structure. The 37th Cavalry Brigade is unique in the Iraqi Army and is probably a test bed for armored cavalry formations. It is equipped with 35 EE-9s (wheeled light tanks) and 98 BTR-80s. The BTR-80s were found to have insufficient armament. The tank and LAV orders correspond to four brigades of 35 M1A1s and 98 LAVs — the same mix of vehicles. A recent brief stated that nine of 14 planned location commands and 10 of 12 Motor Transport Regiments (MTR) had been formed. The 9th Armored Division does not have a MTR. Instead it has a support battalion per brigade. This indicates that another division will be heavy, an Armored Cavalry Division, and the armor will be concentrated in it. The following are probable candidates for this conversion in order of probability:

'¢ 11th Division in east Baghdad. This division is still forming and could be easily converted. Its forming MTR could be provided to the 17th Division. An M1A1/LAV equipped Division in Iraqi colors based in Baghdad would be a serious show of increasing army power.
'¢ 1st Division based in eastern Anbar. This division is part of the Quick Reaction Force and an elite force. Its MTR could also be easily transferred to the 17th Division. This is a traditional heavy division in the Iraqi Army.
'¢ 7th Division based in western Anbar. This division is part of the Quick Reaction Force.
'¢ 5th Division based in Diyala. This division is in a hot area and also guards the primary approach to Baghdad from Iran. This is a traditional heavy division in the Iraqi Army.
'¢ A new division. The 2nd and 4th Divisions have nine battalions excess to standard organization. Like the battalions split from 6th and 8th Divisions, a new division could be formed from these. Even if this does not get the armor, these battalions will probably be split off to form independent brigades or a new division.