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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part III

Toward the Objective: Building a New Iraq

Chapter 11
Training the Iraqi Security Forces


The Challenges of Post-Saddam Iraq

As stated earlier, planners within the US Government envisioned the large-scale surrender of Iraqi Army units during the invasion.7 However, they assumed that police and justice systems would remain intact, and the Coalition would adopt an advisory role to facilitate bureaucracies that would continue to function in a post-Saddam Iraq.8 Military plans at CENTCOM and Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) called for the rapid handover of responsibility for rebuilding security forces to Iraqi civilians and would recall Iraqi officers to duty after the toppling of the regime. The Bush administration further sanctioned this concept by approving the prewar ORHA plan to recall Iraqi troops to provide security, repair roads, and tackle the various reconstruction tasks of a new Iraq. Lieutenant General (Retired) Jay Garner, the chief of the ORHA, proposed paying 300,000 to 400,000 members of the Iraqi regular army to do the reconstruction work.9 The plans further expected all Army and security service personnel to present themselves to Coalition authorities to be registered, an act for which they would receive a $20 payment.10

Despite the Coalition’s planning, in late May, Ambassador Paul Bremer III issued CPA Order No. 2, “Dissolution of Entities,” which officially dissolved the Iraqi Army, Air Force, Navy, and other forces. This directive rendered all previous assumptions and expectations obsolete.

On the ground in Iraq, Saddam’s disappearance had created a vacuum of power in which most civilian institutions and entire units of the old Iraqi armed forces simply melted away. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others pointed out, the army effectively disbanded itself when its officers and soldiers returned to their homes following the fall of the Saddam regime.11 Bremer and others in the CPA had arrived in Iraq in May 2003 with no intention of keeping Saddam’s military under arms, and saw no possibility of doing so even if they had sought to use it as a base for Iraq’s new forces. Thus, for many in the CPA, Order No. 2 merely formalized what had already occurred.12 For the Bush administration, the order did more than simply reflect the reality on the ground. It also served as a critical tool in the purging of the remnants of the Baath Party and the old security forces from Iraq so that a new state and society could be born.13 As this study previously noted, many in the Coalition’s leadership viewed this purge as critical to the CPA effort to gain Kurdish and Shia support for the reinvention of Iraq. Those two groups had suffered at the hands of the Baathist security forces and would not likely support any political project in which significant elements of these forces played a part.

The Coalition then made the momentous decision in May 2003 to create new military and police forces for a country with a complex society replete with multiple political, ethnic, and confessional fault lines. The story of that effort, which continued through the elections of January 2005, is also complex, reflecting the Byzantine set of organizations and processes established by the Coalition to oversee this integral part of the full spectrum campaign in Iraq. The details of this effort will be discussed in more detail later in this chapter, but a short summary of the major evolutionary steps and evolving terminology is necessary first. Former Ambassador Walter Slocombe, the CPA Senior Advisor for National Defense in 2003, led the CPA security sector reform effort. Slocombe was responsible for the creation of the defense ministry and its new armed forces, as well as coordinating for the establishment of the Iraqi police and intelligence sectors.14 In May 2003 Slocombe and the CPA took over responsibility for building the military and police organizations that were later to become known collectively as the ISF.15 Within the broad organization of the ISF, the conventional military forces, under the command of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, were often referred to as the Iraqi Armed Forces (IAF) to distinguish them from organizations that had internal security roles and were controlled by the Ministry of Interior (MOI), one of three Iraqi ministries not disbanded by the CPA.

Between May 2003 and March 2004, Bremer and Slocombe organized the ISF building efforts under two commands—the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) under Major General Paul Eaton and the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT), initially led by Mr. Bernard Kerik. CMATT was responsible for Iraq’s military forces and CPATT for Iraq’s police forces. The MOI controlled three other security organizations: the Facilities Protection Service (FPS), the Iraqi Highway Patrol (IHP), and the Department of Border Enforcement (DBE).16

While the CPA was busy with these major efforts, in the late summer of 2003 CJTF-7 units began forming and training their own Iraqi paramilitary units called the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC). This was a diverse range of units that individual US divisions and brigades recruited to assist them in tasks ranging from trash cleanup and minor construction to base security, and in some cases, patrolling.

In the fall of 2003 the CPA’s ISF building mission added three new forces. In September the DOD added the creation of an Iraqi Air Force and an Iraqi Coastal Defense Force to the CPA’s responsibilities. Then in November the CPA tasked the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Arabian Peninsula (CJSOTF-AP) under CJTF-7 to begin training the 36th Iraqi Commando Battalion. The commander of CJSOTF-AP assigned three US Army Special Forces (SF) Operational Detachments–Alpha (ODA) to the mission.17 More changes were ordered in the spring of 2004 as the result of the Sunni and Shia uprisings across Iraq and in anticipation of the hurriedly sped up turnover of sovereignty to the Iraqis in June 2004.

On 22 April 2004 CPA Order No. 73 transferred control of the ICDC to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, officially making it part of the IAF. The ICDC was next redesignated as the Iraqi National Guard (ING) on 20 June 2004. In addition to these programs, the Iraqis created a special infantry division, first known as the Iraq National Task Force Division and later as the Iraqi Intervention Force (IIF), in May and June 2004 to conduct internal security operations. The Iraqis, with Coalition assistance, also created a counterterrorism unit, the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) Brigade, which reported independently of the Iraqi Army to the Ministry of Defense.

With the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq on 28 June 2004, Iraq assumed control of all its security forces. However, the Coalition intended to play a major part in the operational employment and further development of the ISF. To do this, the Coalition centralized all of the arming, training, and advising efforts under the MNSTC-I commanded by Lieutenant General Petraeus. MNSTC-I was a military command subordinate to Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF-I). This significant change finalized the gradual handoff of responsibility for building the ISF from the CPA to the US military that had been ongoing since the spring of 2004. In June the military arms of the ISF became known simply as the IAF, which included the Iraqi Army (IA), the IIF, the Iraqi Special Operations Brigade, the ING (made up of units from the former ICDC), the Iraqi Air Force, and the Iraqi Coastal Defense Force. The Iraqi Police, Highway Patrol, Facility Protection Service, and Department of Border Enforcement continued to report to the MOI.

The IAF were again reorganized just prior to the elections in January 2005. First, the Iraqi Government folded the ING into the Iraqi Army on 6 January 2005. Similarly, the IIF was redesignated as the 1st Division of the Iraqi Army on 12 January 2005. As the final step of this reorganization, the Coastal Defense Force was rechristened the Iraqi Navy on 20 January 2005 with subordinate naval and marine elements. As much as possible, this chapter will refer to the various elements of the ISF using the designations they had at the time.

Chapter 11. Training the Iraqi Security Forces

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