Iraqi Army (IA)
New Iraqi Army (NIA)
By early 2005 the Iraqi Interim and Transitional Governments, with Coalition assistance, had fielded over 90 battalions in order to provide security within Iraq during a period of an intense counterinsurgency campaign that was designed to suppress the development of democracy. All but one of these battalions, however, were lightly equipped and armed, and had very limited mobility and sustainment capabilities. These limitations, coupled with a more resilient insurgency than anticipated when the Iraqi Security Forces were initially designed, led the Prime Minister of Iraq to request forces that could participate in the "hard end" of the counterinsurgency, and to do so quickly.
Iraq celebrated Army Day on 6 January 2005, marking the 84th anniversary of the activation of the Iraqi Army on 6 January 1921. Ceremonies across the country recalled the Army's past service and sacrifice and showcased current and future capabilities. Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Minister of Defense Hazam Sha'alan, Minister of State Cassim Daoud, and General Babakir Al Zibari, the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Armed Forces, presided over ceremonies held at Taji Military Base, north of Baghdad, before returning to Baghdad to conduct ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Prime Minister Allawi addressed the Iraqi Armed Forces in particular and the people of Iraq more generally, in his speech at Taji. "Free brothers, Iraq is facing a difficult and complicated situation especially in this period, but together we are going to build a strong and independent Iraq, a country free of oppression and depression, a country based on the power of law, honesty and truth," Allawi said. "It's a difficult mission, but we will do it. You brothers, members of the army forces, will face crucial challenges, but I am confident of your ability to overcome them with your heads up. Your solid will is an advantage to defeat these challenges. Together we will win. Together we will defeat our enemies. Together we will build our beloved Iraq."
Army Day ceremonies around Iraq including reading of a proclamation issued by General Babakir that recalled the proud history of the Iraqi Army, announced the activation of 9 Iraqi Army divisions, and explained the incorporation of the National Guard into the Regular Army. This move would "ensure unity of command and effort to meet the security challenges we currently face," Babakir noted.
During the ceremony at Taji, Prime Minister Allawi and Minister Sha'alan named Iraqi Army Lieutenant General Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim, who was the Iraqi ground forces commander in Operation Al Fajr (Fallujah), the Land Forces Commander, with responsibility for the Iraqi Army. A pass in review then showcased some of the capabilities of the Army.
As of July 2005, Multi-National Forces - Iraq (MNF-I) had implemented a structured training and assessment process for Iraqi Military Forces. Training for the individual soldier was divided into 2 areas: training for new recruits and training for former soldiers. Training for new recruits took a total of 9 weeks and was usually conducted at the Iraqi Training Brigade (ITB) in Kirkush. Training for former soldiers lasted 3 to 4 weeks and was usually conducted in divisional locations with graduates generally being assigned to the division that trained them. All personnel received standard infantry-style training. Selected soldiers received specialized training in Army Military Occupational Specialties, such as Signal, Administration, Supply, Armor, Transport, Maintenance and Military Police. A small number of Army personnel attended advanced training with NATO and US Army schools.
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.
Membership in the Iraqi Special Forces Brigade required additional training. All Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) soldiers underwent a 3-week Assessment and Selection course. Iraqi Counter Terrorist Forces (ICTF) soldiers received 12 weeks of training in Jordan on Close Quarters Battle (CQB), Planning, and Leadership before they conducted Direct Action missions. ISOF soldiers underwent rigorous training emphasizing small unit tactics, counterterrorism, and unit self-reliance. Improved qualification and vetting standards minimized absenteeism and the risk of insurgent infiltration. The Brigade's chain of command and officer cadre were assessed as being very effective. ISOF elements had been conducting operations for the previous year. They had played crucial roles in major combat operations along side of, and sometimes independently of, Coalition forces.
MNF-I had also implemented, in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, a program to embed Military Transition Teams at the battalion, brigade, and division level. These teams provided Transition Readiness Assessments (TRAs) to Multi-National Corps - Iraq (MNC-I), identifying areas of progress and shortcomings, ultimately leading to those individual units being ready to assume independent control of their area of responsibility. These assessments took into account a variety of criteria similar to, but not identical to what the US Army used to evaluate its units' operational readiness focused on personnel, command and control, training, sustainment/logistics, equipment, and leadership.
Overall, operational units were to be assessed at one of the following levels:
- Level 1: Capable of planning, executing, and sustaining counterinsurgency operations independent of Coalition forces
- Level 2: Capable of planning, executing, and sustaining counterinsurgency operations with Coalition enablers
- Level 3: Capable of conducting counterinsurgency operations only when operating alongside Coalition units
Level 1, 2, and 3 units were all engaged in operations against the enemy. It was useful to place these readiness assessments in perspective. The first Iraqi Army infantry battalions finished basic training in early 2004 and were immediately required in combat without complete equipment. They had inadequate time to develop unit cohesiveness, staff proficiency, and a leadership chain of command that is fundamental to a military unit. Ministry of Defense forces did not perform well in Fallujah and during operations several battalions collapsed. Absent-without-leave (AWOL) rates among regular army units were in double digits and remained so for the rest of the year.
Although, as of 2005, such problems had not been entirely solved, they had been addressed in large measure because of the ability to put to good use the security sector funding from the Iraq Reconstruction and Relief Fund (IRRF) as provided for by Public Law 108-106. Furthermore, although there was variance in the rate of absenteeism, AWOL, attrition, and desertion among the Iraqi Army, rates had diminished significantly and were around one percent for some divisions. Still, units that were conducting operations and units that relocated elsewhere in Iraq experienced a surge in absenteeism.
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