Current assessment of the state of the Iraqi Army

Posted on: June 23rd, 2014 by Will Rodriguez 15 Comments
Iraqi soldiers take a break during a mission with Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division in Mahmudiyah. August 14, 2007 Photo by SGT Jacob Smith

Political cronyism seems to be the cause of much of the lost Iraqi combat capability as Prime Minister Maliki’s administration replaced many competent officers with politically reliable ones since US military force left Iraq.  Recent reports tell of soldiers finding themselves under attack by ISIS learn that commanders at higher headquarters have fled.  The immediate impact, an inability to reinforce, resupply or withdraw Iraqi Army units who melted into the populace.

The NYT reports a general assessment of the Iraqi Army today.  Over 35% of the Iraqi Army’s 14 divisions are “combat ineffective” which means they are below 70% strength and/or are unable to conduct combat operations.    Almost 25% of all of Iraq’s 243 army battalions have disappeared with all their equipment lost.

Iraq is cobbling together units from soldiers who were on leave at Taji, a military base north of Baghdad.  Hundreds of thousands of untrained volunteers have stepped forward but incorporating these untrained men into units is problematic.  As a direct counter to ISIS, a small number of experienced and highly trained militias exist courtesy of Iran.  There are also two battalions of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq securing Shite holy sites.

Iraq is down to two AT-6 prop driven light airplanes for close air support.  The NYT also reported from January to May that the Iraqis have lost six helicopters to ISIS and had another 60 damaged in the fighting.  28 M1 tanks were damaged and five actually had their armor penetrated likely by Kornet anti-tank missiles brought over from Syria.

The only silver lining seems to be Iraq’s elite counterinsurgency forces which have continued to be trained by the US but unfortunately even their skills have atrophied and are much more adept at conducting checkpoint ops than taking the fight to the enemy as reported by the NYT.

Unfortunately ISIS has captured over 50 Iraqi army howitzers and the capture of Mosul gave ISIS a virtual smorgasbord of ammunition.  Volunteers continue to stream into the fight and ISIS makes it a point to liberate prisons to fill in the ranks.

The Iraqi Army is broken at the highest levels.  Morale is terrible.  Leadership is lacking at all levels but especially at the higher levels which are absolutely imperative to successfully conduct any operations of scale.  Companies do not take cities alone.

The President has sent up to 300 US troops to assess the Iraqi army and the situation.  Rebuilding the Iraqi Army is possible but shouldn’t the first question be why?  Without a vision as to what the US wants to achieve in the region wouldn’t just rebuilding the Iraqi Army to walk away again just push problems down the calendar a bit (hopefully to 2017) or worse be plowing the field for Iran to harvest more influence in Iraq?  Neither of these futures is in our interest and portend even greater and more expensive US involvement down the road.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LauraKinCA

    Maybe if we had negotiated the SOFA and not pulled out, we could have influenced the maintenance of qualified military commanders, but at this point it really seems like Maliki has sown the seeds of his nation’s own destruction. I’m not sure even 300 SF advisors could do much with untrained volunteers in the time it will take to retake what ISIS has gained. Doesn’t bode well.

  • YankeePapa

    .
    “…The President has sent up to 300 US troops to…” be a sacrifice at the pass at Thermopylae in the path of the Persian hordes… Uh, no… wait… I was thinking about something else… 
    .
    …On SOFREP one lad called the Iraqis who fled “cowards…”  May he never be in their shoes. 
    .
    … In the Falklands, Argentinian conscripts were forced into combat against long service British regulars including Paras, Royal Marines… and at the end, Gurkhas… in a cold, wet, and windy armpit of the planet at the behest of a stinking dictatorship…  Often their officers deserted them the night before a British attack.  Lacking a die-hard professional NCO corps… they could hardly have been expected to hold…
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …Well, Maliki has grudgingly agreed to extend judicial immunity to the “300…”
    .
    …Few Americans are aware that after the British managed to extricate their soldiers from Dunkirk in a near miracle… they were still pumping in soldiers at ports farther to the South in France…
    .
    -YP-

  • KineticFury

    YankeePapa  Even the “300” had over a thousand troops with them!

    In regard to politics cleaning out military leaders…didn’t Stalin and Saddam both do that? How’d that turn out for them? People who know history are doomed to watch those who don’t know history repeat history, if you take my meaning.

  • YankeePapa

    KineticFury YankeePapa ,
    .
    …In Stalin’s case the problem wasn’t that he was replacing those that he purged with flunkies… it was rather that those left had to take on responsibilities for which they were not yet ready.  Plus the fate of their predecessors hardly gave them confidence.  But for all of Stalin’s evil and depravity… he did not care to lose the war… and finished with first rate performers like Zhukov…

    .
    …Stalin did already have some flunkies in place before the purges, and unfortunately for him, he did not purge most of them until the war when they proved how worthless and corrupt they were.  One senior general in particular was an arrogant opinionated fool and a coward… 
    .
    … Before the war he dismissed sub-machine guns as “…mere police weapons…” and prevented their wide issue… Then the Finns went skiing by Soviet troops at close range at speed and showed what *their* sub-machine guns could do…
    .
    …Many dictators appoint political cronies over competent senior officers.  Not just to avoid appointing somebody likely to depose them… but even truly politically “neutral” generals… especially if they are popular. 
    .
    …Foreign advisers train up maybe a para unit.  President for Life doesn’t run down terrs in bush with unit… but uses as a palace guard… and to guarantee its collapse into uselessness appoints his brother-in-law as their commander… jump wings and all… (though he has never worn a uniform before and has never even jumped out the window of a house of ill repute…)
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    KineticFury YankeePapa,
    .
    “…Even
    the “300” had over a thousand troops with them…!”
    .
    …True… but the government of Sparta itself refused to send more than 300 of their own troops.  Supposedly this was because of a religious festival… in reality biggest hang-up was that Spartan politicians wanted a defensive line South of Athens (which the Persians could have easilly avoided with amphibious landings…)
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    Yes but what’s really stunning that the President still blames the Iraqis for
    failing to field the residual force when WE were demanding it go through
    Parliament yet now a “diplomatic note” is enough.This “small” but incredibly central point is being missed by everyone.

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …And in today’s news:
    .

    UPI
    |
    Jul 03, 2014

    Fighter planes from Iran have arrived in Iraq to provide air
    support in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants who have overtaken much
    of the country.
    After Russia supplied Su-25 jets and the United States provided
    helicopters, drones and missiles, three Su-25s from Iran have arrived as
    well, said the International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in
    London.
    .

    It indicates the U.S. and Iran, enemies on most geopolitical fronts, are working toward the same goal. (Really?… I sort of doubt that…)
    .

    IISS analysts said serial numbers on the Russian-built aircraft from
    Iran, seen on a video produced by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense,
    correspond with numbers known to be part of Iran’s air force.
    Joseph Dempsey of the IISS noted “evidence of key positions
    (identifying marks) being painted over. This includes the location of
    Iranian roundels on the side of the air intakes along with a large
    proportion of the tail fin normally occupied by a full serial number,
    the Iranian flag and the IRGC (Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps) insignia.
    Imagery analysis makes this the most logical conclusion. The markings,
    serial numbers and camouflage all fit with what we know of the Iranian
    fleet.”
    .

    Dempsey suggested the planes are being flown by non-Iraqi pilots,
    noting Iraq has not used this type of aircraft since the first Gulf War…
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa
  • YankeePapa I read this same story and it is very disturbing in its implications on how close the Iranians, Iraqis and Russians are.  It was reported Russian shipped a dozen SU25’s (their version of the A10) the day before.

    This is what happens when you create a vacuum.  Others rush in to fill the void.  Not good news for Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa ,
    .
    …You mean nobody in our Air Force told the Russians that dedicated ground support aircraft are “obsolete…?”
    .
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_Su-25
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa
  • YankeePapa

    .
    …Meanwhile, at a secret facility in Kurdistan…
    .
    http://news.msn.com/world/expansion-of-secret-facility-in-iraq-suggests-closer-us-kurd-ties
    .
    -YP-

  • Sir Drinksalot

    Great article. Will.

  • YankeePapa