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Iraqi Army (IA)
New Iraqi Army (NIA)

Iraqi ArmyIraqs army was once a formidable military that waged an eight-year war with Iran. The US spent over $20 billion to train and equip Iraqi security forces. But in June 2014 once-proud Iraqi army simply collapsed and failed to defend the countrys second-largest city. Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops abandoned their posts and fled.

By 2014 the Iraqi army suffered from unhappiness among soldiers as a result of the underpayment or nonpayment of wages for months, particularly in the north and west. Here the army suffered from declining morale and desertions in the early months of 2014. This came as it battled the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had seized control of Fallujah and Ramadi at the beginning of 2014. The Army made no gains against a foe that was well armed and highly motivated.

Desertion rates depended on whether units were deployed outside their home areas or were operating against insurgents of their own religious or ethnic background. Desertions were reported to be particularly high among Sunni soldiers from Sunni-dominated central and northern Iraq. There were significant loyalty issues in predominantly Sunni Arab units commanded by Shi'ite officers, following the purges of Sunni officers over the previous three years under the Maliki government. The Iraqi army in the north and west also suffered from low morale among Shi'ite soldiers from the south of the country, who had neither a regional nor communal affinity with the populations they were defending. Over 90 percent of the Iraqi Army is composed of Shi'ites.

An estimated 1,200 ISIS fighters were able to topple Mosul, which was supposedly protected by 60,000 troops. Before these troops disintegrated in Mosul in June 2014, the Iraq army was losing as many as 300 soldiers a day to desertion, death, and injury. When they abandoned Mosul in mid-June, military personnel abandoned their vehicles, discarded their weapons, discarded their uniforms onto the street, and changed into civilian clothes.

By 14 June 2014 the situation in the Sunni north-western parts of Iraq amounted to the collapse of the forces of the army and federal police. With the fall of Nineveh Mosul, operational command virtually ceased, with the defeated remnants of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Iraqi army and the third motorized division of the federal police in Iraq running south or towards the Kurdish autonomy. The road between Baghdad and Mosul was cut, and in the province of Salah al-Din, militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Sham) launched an offensive and captured the Tikrit administrative center as well as Suleiman Bek, Baiji (along with a large oil refinery there), etc. The situation for the Iraqi forces operational command "Tiger" was extremely unfavorable, with the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit defeated and / or running. Also according to reports from the Kurds, the 12th Infantry Division in Kirkuk was close to panic, with mass desertion and abandonment of combat positions.

The role of the officer corps remained confused. According to some accounts, the Maliki government had promoted officers based on political loyalty, producing a militarily imcompetent officer corps. By other accounts, Iraqi soldiers reported that their officers had ordered them to surrender rather than fight.

International media reported that two division of Iraqi soldiers roughly 30,000 men fled an insurgent ISIS force of approximately 1,000. Iraqi troops who fled the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters into Mosul denied that they abandoned their posts, saying that they had received orders to flee from up the chain of command.

We are not deserters. Our commanders abandoned us while we were sleeping at night, and fled by helicopter, Mahmoud Fahd, an Iraqi soldier who survived the ISIS attack told Asharq Al-Awsat. When we woke up in the morning, there were no [military] officials at the post. Our officers told us to put on civilian clothes and return to our families, the Iraqi soldier added.

Stephen Zunes, a scholar of Middle Eastern politics at the University of San Francisco, observed "You can arm and train the local government armed forces all you want, but the question is: are they willing to fight and die for the government? And unfortunately, the Maliki government has alienated so many people in the country that they don't really seem to have the popular support where enough soldiers are willing to risk their lives".

Michael Knights reported in June 2014 that "Around 60 of 243 Iraqi army combat battalions cannot be accounted for, and all of their equipment is lost. It will be a mammoth task to put these units back together and rearm them." Michael Gordon reported that "American officials said their assessment was that five of the Iraqi Armys 14 divisions were combat ineffective, including the two that were overrun in Mosul. ... since the withdrawal of American troops at the end of 2011, the skills of Iraqi forces have atrophied, American officials said. The Iraqi military is not practiced at maneuvering on the battlefield and has become a checkpoint army, a force that is adept at checking identification but not at taking the fight to its enemy."

If the government is either acutely sectarian or acutely corrupt or both, so that large swaths of the population feel disenfranchised and in fact humiliated by their own government, no amount of local security forces are really going to make up for that deficit, said Sarah Chayes, who was special adviser to former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

The IISS reported in its Military Balance for 2013 that that the Maliki government had introduced the equivalent of untrained political commissars called dimaj into the force structure, and that, a broad set of problems continue to plague the Iraqi Army...The first involves weaknesses in management, logistics and strategic planning. The unwillingness, of senior military officials to delegate responsibility down, the chain of command also stifles innovation and independent decision-making at a junior level. Between 2003 and 2005, over 15,000 [by some estimates] Shiite Islamist militia personnel were incorporated into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). These dimaj (direct accession) personnel lacked formal professional education as soldiers or policemen. Dimaj officers were inserted into the senior ranks.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced 12 November 2014 that 36 commanders had been removed from office and 18 others installed to promote professionalism and combat corruption. The names were not disclosed, but those replaced were said to include the chief of ground forces, the military chief of staff and the commander of operations in Anbar Province. Tellingly, this announcement came from the Prime Minister, not the Minister of Defense.

Iraqi ArmyThe first battalion of the Iraqi army was founded on 06 January 1921 under the name of Musa Al Kadhum battalion, then other military battalions, brigades and divisions and later nominating the three sorts: the ground forces, the air forces and naval forces were completed. On the time of King Faisl, the S. Ltc. Gen. Ja'far Alaskary was the first Iraqi minister of defense since Jan. 6th 1921 till Nov. 29th 1936. The military adventurers then tried to make the army an active means to achieve their aims to control the government and people through repeated coups d'etat.

Following Operation Iraqi Freedom and the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003, the decision was made to establish a professional Iraqi Army [IA]. This New Iraqi Army, as it was initially known, would replace Saddam's army with a professional force for maintaining peace and stability. The New Iraqi Army's primary responsibilities would be for border protection, securing roads and installations, and clearing mines and unexploded bombs left over from the war. Only a small number of officers would be employed in the new army, as plans called for it to be much smaller than that of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's. The US administration in Iraq envisioned the new army to be purely for defense and wholly separate from the civil police force unlike during the Hussein regime. Units were to reflect Iraq's religious, regional, and ethnic mix, be non-political, under law-based civilian control, and a force for defense and security-not aggression and oppression.

Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 22, Creation of a New Iraqi Army, dated 7 August 2003, established a military force for the national self-defense of a future free Iraq. Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 23, Creation of a Code of Military Discipline for the New Iraqi Army, dated 7 August 2003, established a system of discipline to maintain order in the New Iraqi Army.

Initial assumptions that the Iraqi military and other security forces could be reformed were seriously flawed. When the security forces were largely disbanded, the Coalition had no plan to rebuild them. The Coalition decision to use a private company to build the New Iraqi Army also proved problematic. On June 25, 2003, the U.S. Army, acting on behalf of the CPA, awarded the Vinnell Corporation a $48.0 million cost plus fixed fee contract to train the first nine battalions, or 9,000 recruits, of a 44,000 person-strong New Iraqi Army (NIA). Separately, a $30.0 million task order was issued under the existing Logistics Civil Augmentation Program for logistical support to the NIA training program.

As early as 2003, the media was reporting problems with the capabilities of those being trained by Vinnell and its subcontractors, including Military Professional Resources, Incorporated (MPRI). As a result, the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF-7) contracted the Jordanian military to supplement the training effort. Major General Paul Eaton, overseeing the Coalition Military Assistance Transition Team (CMATT), questioned using contract trainers, saying: soldiers need to train soldiers. You cant ask a civilian to do a soldiers job. In April 2004, an NIA battalion refused to fight insurgents in Fallujah, and soon thereafter Major General David Petraeus took over the training mission.

With the advent of the insurgency in 20032004, the United States abandoned its initial security plans, which called for a relatively small IA oriented toward border-defense missions. Instead, U.S. and GOI officials embarked on a multi-year programto recruit, train, equip, and deploy a robust IA capable of conducting aggressive counterinsurgency operations inside Iraq. As of 15 February 2004, more than 3,500 personnel had been recruited. Nearly 2,000 were operational and over 1,700 were in training. By August 2005, the Iraqi Army, as it had become referred to, totaled 86 combat battalions, which were at that time conducting counterinsurgency operations, which included almost 75,000 trained and equipped soldiers organized into 9 infantry divisions and one mechanized division. An additional 12,000 troops provided support, training and special security functions.

As of 2006 the IA consisted of nine light infantry divisions and one mechanized division. Each light infantry division has between three to five light infantry brigades. Within each brigade there are two to five light infantry battalions. The 9th Mechanized Infantry Division was outfitted with T-72 main battle tanks and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles.

Between August 2005 and March 2010, the Iraqi Army increased in size to 196 combat battalions conducting operations, as well as 20 Iraqi protection battalions and 6 Iraqi special operations forces battalions. In that period the active Iraqi Army successfully absorbed units created for strategic infrastructure protection. The Iraqi Army had already absorbed the Iraqi National Guard by January 2005. During 2007, the Iraqi Army passed control of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces to the Counter-Terrorism Bureau. It retained administrative and logistical responsibilities for the units. As of March 2010 the IA continued to make steady progress toward a Minimum Essential Capability, but was not expected achieve a foundation for defense against external threats before December 2011 because of equipment procurement timelines and subsequent training requirements.

As of mid-2010 there were 196 IA combat battalions conducting operations. Although the IA continued to make steady progress toward MEC, it could not achieve a foundation for defense against external threats before December 2011 because of equipment procurement timelines and subsequent training requirements to complete development of four modern divisions (one mechanized and three infantry). Specifically, equipping, training, and combined arms integration of the M1A1 fleet, artillery units, and key mechanized enablers will not be complete.

As of June 30, 2011, the IA had a nominal strength of almost 200,000 soldiers a force USF-I characterized as capable of maintaining domestic security with limited support from the U.S. military. Although the police had increased their size and capabilities and had replaced IA units as the lead in some local areas, at that time the IA remained in the lead in 14 provinces, with operational control for security residing inseven regional operation commands.

The transfer of internal security to police would free up IA units to focus on the development of traditional combined-arms capabilities and external defense. Plans called for elements of four IA divisions to be withdrawn from domestic security operations in January 2012 for additional training by the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) in combined-arms operations. As an initial step in this process,USF-I is helping the IA integrate mortarmen and combat engineers into the infantry units. US military advisors planned to start training IA mechanized infantry units on more advanced combined-arms tactics in July, including the proper use of 1,100 new armored personnel carriers, 140 M1 Abrams main battle tanks, and an array of modern indirect-fire systems.

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