Iraq currently has about 600,000
personnel in its security forces. About
half these forces are in the national police, and work for the Interior
Ministry. These are the local cops, and the vary enormously in quality. This all
depends on the local leadership, and the degree of support the police get from
the local population. A more elite force is the National Police, 40,000
specialists that includes the Emergency Response Unit and other specialists.
Lastly, the Interior Ministry has about 40,000 border guards.
of defense has about a third of the security forces. Most of these, about
175,000 troops, are in the army. There are another 19,000 in support forces, a
woefully small number of logistics, maintenance and transportation troops. This
is why Iraqi troops are often not ready for action, or literally run out of gas
(food, bullets and etc) during
operations. This has long been a problem with Arab armies, and Saddam's force
was no exception. One part of the problem is that support forces are more easily
plundered by corrupt officers, and there is reluctance to build up the this
aspect of the military. The generals would prefer to have more guys with guns.
The other services are tiny, with the air force and navy each having about
two ministries, there are over 50,000 security guards, who watch over things
like oil production facilities and power plants.
Iraqi Army grows in numbers, what counts more is the increasing number of
trained, and combat experienced sergeants (NCOs) and officers showing up. The
Iraqi armed forces have long been regarded as the least effective force in the
Middle East. Arab armies in general, for cultural and political reasons, are
poor quality. Saddam had some decent units in his Republican Guard. But these
men were all Sunni Arabs, selected more for their loyalty to Saddam, than for
their military capabilities. Allowed to train, and given the best equipment
available, the Republican Guard could be depended on to fight when ordered to.
But against Western troops, they were quickly crushed. Thus it was necessary to
start from scratch after 2003, when the Sunni Arab led army was disbanded.
years of effort, the Iraqi government has managed to produce a force of over
half a million armed men. Saddam had at his disposal about twice as many. How
do the two forces compare?
Saddam was ousted in 2003, the active duty army consisted of about 250,000
troops. Some 40 percent of these were the elite Republican Guard. Nearly all
the army officers, and most of the NCOs, were Sunni Arabs. In the Republican
Guard, everyone was Sunni Arab, as this outfit was, in effect, Saddam's
"royal guard" and his main defense against a revolt by the army. The
other 150,000 troops were mainly Sunni
and Shia draftees, although there were Kurd and other minorities (Turks, and
several Christian groups). At the time of the invasion, about 100,000
reservists (men who had done their conscript service recently) had been
recalled to active duty. There were another 600,000 or so reservists who could
have been called up. But many of these were Shia Arabs, and Saddam didn't want
to see lots of armed Shia, in uniform or not.
difference between the current Iraqi army and Saddams force is training. The
only troops Saddam allowed to get much training was the Republican Guard. The
Shia Arab and Kurdish troops had fought for Saddam in the 1980s war with Iran,
but quickly deserted when confronted by Coalition (mainly U.S.) troops in
Kuwait in 1991. Same thing happened during the 2003 invasion. Some Republican
Guard forces put up a fight, but most of the army fled. Saddam's army was a
weak combat force, and even the Republican Guard was quickly broken. Note that
the Iraqi army had a long history of shabby performance.
The core of Saddams armed forces were his
secret police, intelligence and paramilitary organizations. All these amounted
to about 100,000 armed men. Many were basically thugs in civilian clothes. But
they could be depended on. Less reliable were the 100,000 or so national police
and border guards. These could be bribed, although in wealthier areas, the cops
received additional payments from local civilians, and maintained law and
In effect, Saddam built a reliable force of
200,000 Sunni Arab troops and secret police (from a total Sunni Arab population
of five million). That's four percent of all Sunni Arabs, whose main job was
not fighting foreign invaders, but keeping the other 80 percent of the
population under control. Counting reserve officers and NCOs who also received
payments, and the majority of civil service jobs that were reserved for Sunni
Arabs, you can see how important Saddam
was to Iraqi Sunni Arabs. Saddam provided jobs, or some regular income, for
about half of all adult Sunni Arab males. These guys were not particularly well
trained fighters, but they were loyal. Many were willing to fight for years in
an effort to regain the good old days.
army has been much more carefully selected and trained. Most of the troops,
especially the officers and NCOs, are Shia Arabs, with a large Kurdish
minority. Many of these had never served as officers and had to be trained from
billion has been spent to train Iraqi security forces so far, and a lot of it
was wasted. But Saddam wasted a lot more. The corruption in Iraq is an ancient
problem, and in the last few years of Saddam's rule, the stealing was rampant
and actually getting worse. Many current soldiers and cops are simply carrying
on in the "traditional" Iraqi way.
many Iraqi traditions that are still practiced includes kicking back part of
your salary and not having to show up for work (except in emergencies), so you
can hold another job. It's also common for criminals or militiamen to join the
army or police, and get two paychecks for one job. Double dipping is very
popular, as is bribe taking and theft.
War II, occupied Japan and Germany had traditions of honest and efficient civil service to fall
back on. Iraq has much less savory
traditions, ones that ought to be eliminated. But traditions are not so easy to
change, as everyone is discovering in Iraq.