We don’t have TIME to ‘understand’!

Petraeus Details Iraqi Military Progress

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus yesterday:

More than 115 Iraqi police and army combat battalions are in the counterinsurgency fight, he said. About 80 of the battalions are fighting alongside U.S. forces, which the general said equates to Level 3 readiness in the four-tier readiness rating system. “Over 36 (battalions) are assessed as being ‘in the lead,'” he said. In the lead is the term associated with Level 2 readiness, and means the troops are capable of leading joint patrols, as opposed to merely participating.

Level 1 units are labeled as being “fully independent.” There is one battalion in this category, Petraeus said.

The general said it is a mistake to fixate on the Level 1 unit. He said Americans should to expand their understanding of the readiness levels and what each unit brings to the fight. [emphasis mine]

Regular folks need to learn these esoteric military terms so that they can tell when they are being lied to.

As I said yesterday, the real key is getting Level 3 units up to Level 2. That’s the short- and mid-term priority. Level 1 is long-term for two primary reasons: a) It takes a long friggin’ time and b) The Iraqi army is fighting a defensive war on it’s own territory with support services readily available from Coalition forces.

Meanwhile, here’s more on the quest for Level 1 capability: Taji Depot Ramps Up Training, Supply Efforts:

With 383 Iraqi soldiers, 150 contractors and 20 U.S. soldiers, the depot is responsible for supplying the logistic needs of 10 divisions of the Iraqi Armed Forces, along with regional base support units. Items ranging from weapons and body armor to ambulances and pickup trucks are managed by the depot.

In addition to moving supplies and equipment, the depot’s mission also includes training Iraqi soldiers to operate and maintain it.

Exciting stuff, isn’t it?

Okay, maybe not. But it’s the sort of thing that will get Level 2 units to Level 1. Important in the long term, but we’re building an Iraqi army that’s sharp of “tooth” at the expense of the “tail”. I’d rather have another battalion of combat troops at this point than another couple hundred warehouse clerks, truck drivers, forklift operators, and mechanics, thank-you very much.

More from the Petraeus article:

Iraqis are engaging in long-term planning. They have set up a military academy that has 500 cadets. NATO has set up a staff college to train staff officers for division and higher jobs. The Iraqis have committed to having a professional noncommissioned officer corps and they have set up professional military education facilities to make that happen, Petraeus said. All these movements won’t be felt immediately, but they will certainly help readiness down the road, he added.

The long term is not being ignored. But the long term takes a long time. We need to get there in one piece.

And, using the info in the article, here’s a summary of army and police combat battalions:

  • LEVEL1: 1 battalion
  • LEVEL 2: 36 battalions
  • LEVEL 3: 80 battalions

Recall that all of these units have completed their basic training and are deployable. (LEVEL 4 represents new recruits who have not completed basic training.) The number of Level 3 units is slightly higher than I estimated yesterday.

I think it should be clear to those that understand the rating system that things are not nearly as dire as critics would have us believe. Critics like this.

UPDATE: This headline would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous to the victory of freedom: Fight all but gone out of Iraqi Army. Lies. Lies. Lies.

And here’s another article, and this one’s worth reading: Iraqi Army Training Goes Beyond Combat to Logistics. It includes

Americans conducting the training in Kirkuk say the long-term survival of the Iraqi Army depends on its ability to manage its supplies, care for its sick and protect its bases.

“This is not rocket science. It’s about these guys learning about basic accountability,” said Maj. Anthony Palmieri, a 36-year-old Hoboken, N.J., native who leads the 12-man training group. “Logistics is the key to getting this army to stand on its feet.”

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE 2: I’m a bit shaky on that ’80’ figure for Level 3. I’ve tried to find more info, but most reports on this are along the lines of “OHMYGOD THERE’S ONLY ONE YES ONE!!! IRAQI BATTALION WORTH ANYTHING AND THERE USED TO BE THREE AND WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG I CAN’T BELIEVE THERE’S ONLY ONE IRAQI BATTALION” and it’s difficult to find anything meaningful.

I’m wondering if those 80 battalions “fighting alongside US forces” include the 36 “in the lead”. Personally, I don’t think they do, as 80+36+1 (for levels 1-3) equals 117 which would be the “more than 115” he notes. But I’d like to see more on the numbers.

I guess I’m just posting this thought so cover my donkey in case the 80 at Level 3 really turns out to be 44. I try to make sure my donkey is always covered if I’m not positive about something…


  1. Yeah real good work. These last few days you have really got to the bottom of this story. At first they had me thinking there were about 1000 Iraqi soliders willing to fight with us and that number seemed small. Now I see it is much larger then that. No if we could only find out how many of them have loyalties other then Iraq.

  2. I see many parallels between improving the capabilities of Iraqi Mil & Police Units and the local Palestinian Security Forces I routinely work with. They (PSF) are certainly not stupid or unwilling, they just have (bleep) for equipment, their training is inadequate, especially in logistics and support of frontline security units, as well as more esoteric stuff like ‘professionalism’ (as opposed to cronyism & tribalism) and apolitical dedication to the job. Good luck to all those in Iraq in their continued efforts to get the Iraqi Armed & Police Forces on their own feet! Hope to see some of that effort ‘slide this way’ some day, or the PA is in for a much more painful, long and hard slog than need be.

  3. Murdoc – what do you think?: I think the key to the Level-1 and Level-2 reclassification and ensuing debate is ‘well, how much control do you wish for us to have (on the IA)’? Of course this is a sensitive issue and the Pentagon would rightfully prefer that the MSM not get into this debate – hence the Pentagon cannot adequately answer the MSM RE the two L1 downgrades. As Petraeus has said softly, L2 is superior to L1. Because they are controllable. Do you really wish to see 100 Bns of L1 troops that depend on no one, but its loyalty is under question? Remember that the average soldier is closer to his Imam, religious party, militia, tribe or clan than he is to his government or state. Much less to the MNF. Do you really want 100 Bns of L1 IA? L2 + MNF logistics and command can do everything that an L1 can do. Why would you need L1, except for maybe the SWAT team? Petreaus has said: ‘the focus should be on L2 not L1’. I think the anti-war press (actually ‘pro-war but on the other side’) has taken whiff of this, and that is why they are subconsciously pushing for L1, thinking incorrectly that it is an issue of preparedness. Well, it is better that the MSM remain under this illusion, IMO.

  4. hamidreza: Shhh! Be vewy vewy qwiet! I’ve had some thoughts along these lines since the Iraqis began receiving tanks and while writing a comment at Fourth Rail I decided to think about it a bit more and post more extensively on the idea. I really think you might be on to something. I’ll hopefully be able to put together a good post on it in the next couple of days. I’m on the road this weekend and will have dial-up at best, so I’ll be a bit limited…

  5. First off, it would be nice if we could have any confidence that anything that comes out of the decepticon party is anything resembling the truth. second- finding and closing with the enemy is ultimately a requirement for an effective military. thats a level one function. third-we will always be able to find iraqi’s who are ready, willing and able to take a paycheck, and hang around pretending to be a soldier. and sell us out to the IO at every opportunity. the soldiers, dont close with the enemy. they accompany front line units reluctantly. and are no good for anything. why should I believe this isnt what a level 2 unit is? why should anyone??

  6. and is it just me or is the idea that one depot with 400 guys is supplying 10 division? isnt a division like 25k troops? 400 guys are supporting a quarter of a million men? WTF???

  7. and btway, could someone tell us why the nuumber of level one’s has dropped from 3 to 1? No explanation. no nothing. Im guessing that since they wont explain, the reason is they figured out that the second and third units were heavily infiltrated.

  8. Aaron: finding and closing with the enemy is ultimately a requirement for an effective military. thats a level one function. You obviously haven’t been paying attention. This is a post about the misconception of what the various levels mean. Don’t comment if all you’re going to do is continue to misunderstand. and is it just me or is the idea that one depot with 400 guys is supplying 10 division? What you wrote makes no sense. I think you mean that you don’t think those 400 guys can supply 10 divisions, with which I agree. But there aren’t 10 divisions in the Iraqi army, so maybe they meant battalions, not divisions. Maybe it’s the beginnings of a 5,000 man operation that will supply 10 divisions by the year 2020. Maybe it’s primarily a logistics command post with a lot of administrators. They’re ‘in training’ and ‘ramping up’, but no, it’s probably George Bush lying to us, isn’t it? could someone tell us why the nuumber of level one’s has dropped from 3 to 1? No explanation. no nothing. Im guessing that since they wont explain, the reason is they figured out that the second and third units were heavily infiltrated. You’re probably right. Just like when US Marine units go from L1 to L2, its almost always due to infiltration. Most European units are not L1, probably due to infiltration. Most of the US National Guard is not L1, and that’s almost certainly due to infiltration. BTW, all three previously-L1 units are no longer L1, not just two out of three. So all three were heavily infiltrated. The current L1 unit is a different unit. Also BTW, ‘They said generally readiness ratings can change for numerous reasons, such as if a commander resigns, or if more training is needed.’ No mention of infiltration.

  9. By the way, I hear that division structures are not really used any more. They don’t really fit most of the types of warfare we’ve been fighting in the last 20 years or so. Rather than organising units as Armies (two Divisions), they’re operating mostly at the Regimental level. This is certainly what Australia has been doing for a while, but we have a very small military (I think there’s probably enough infantry for 1-2 Divisions) and it doesn’t make sense for us to use our infantry as a single, large unit. Regiments certainly are deployed overseas as single entities. I think even those with larger militaries are finding it easier to manipulate things at a Regiment level and below. In Iraq it’s even smaller – you don’t hear talk of Regiments, only Battalions, the next level down… although I imagine at some point Regiments will be formed as units for external defence (e.g. an infantry Battalion or two along with an armoured Battalion and some organic fire support).