Iraqi Security Forces fire at targets during a course in advanced firearms conducted by U.S. special-operations forces near Fallujah, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

Foreign Internal Defense in Iraq

ARSOF Core Tasks Enable Iraqi Combating-Terrorism Capability

By Master Sergeant Michael O'Brien
Originally published in the January-March 2012 edition of Special Warfare

"Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren."1
— President George W. Bush

The road map to a secure and democratic Iraq is vetted in the United States national-security interests to establish regional stability throughout the Middle East. These interests are maintained through a strategic goal of creating an environment that advances the decree for peace, security and economic prosperity for all nations and their people.2 The U.S. draws on all its instruments of national power, incorporating a whole-of-government approach as necessary to promote the internal security and stability within emerging democracies like Iraq.3

Following the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, it became clear to U.S. strategists that Iraq was transitioning from a traditional (conventional) warfare environment to one of irregular warfare, or IW, which still exists today.4 For Iraq to gain the capacity to combat its internal threats, which quickly evolved within certain regions of the populace, U.S. forces were required to train an Iraqi force with specific capabilities to identify, locate and eliminate or neutralize threats.

The U.S. instituted an integrated strategy employing all elements of national power (diplomatic, informational, military and economic) to ensure that Iraq began its re-emergence with a democratic process of self-determination and economic stability within its own infrastructure, and the ability to secure its country while carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize threats of insurgency.5 A military strategy was devised to enhance Iraq’s ability to combat these immediate internal threats. During Operation Iraqi Freedom II, the strategy of U.S. special-operations forces, or SOF, focused on creating a capability for counterterrorism, or CT, enhanced by a robust intelligence-collection process established to identify key leaders, personnel and support mechanisms of the terror networks operating within the IW environment.

Conducting CT operations and enabling an Iraqi force with a CT capability became the line of operation for the U.S. Special Operations Command’s subordinate units providing special-operations capability to U.S. commanders in Iraq. The United States Army special-operations forces, or ARSOF, assumed responsibility as the main effort to train the Iraqi CT force. A program of foreign internal defense, commonly referred to as FID, was initiated during combat operations to develop, train, equip and advise the Iraqi CT force, its command-and-control elements and support assets. Training the CT operators became the responsibility of U.S. Special Forces groups, usually deployed to Iraq as battalion and headquarters elements. ARSOF Civil Affairs and Military Information Support units assumed vital roles, as their missions focused on addressing the issues in the IW environment that were advantageous to the terror networks and insurgents.

This article provides a look at the U.S. FID program and its applicability in transitioning Iraq toward a stable and secure environment. An examination of the unique capabilities of the units of United States Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC, will illuminate the essential elements that enabled the Iraqi CT force to successfully effect the transition. An examination of the elements encompassing a FID program, such as the one designed for Iraq, will detail the complexity of FID in a combat environment and its unique circumstance. The successes that have been achieved by ARSOF rely on their unique ability to operate in the contemporary IW environment — an environment that encapsulates their special-operations training at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

There is a misconception even within the military that FID is a mission that consists of merely training foreign troops. Analysis of the ARSOF capabilities, which extend beyond tactical-level training of foreign forces on individual and collective tasks relating to internal defense, will shed further light on the complexity of the FID program, and what leads the force to fulfill evolving mission requirements and its success criteria. For Iraq, this includes developing a CT capability that is self-sustaining and self-generating, with a command structure that rises to the echelons of civilian governmental ministries charged with creating the policies and resources that govern and sustain the national asset.

Foreign internal defense

There are several programs and activities that provide foreign assistance, not all specifically inherent to the U.S. The majority of assistance involving the military is supported by U.S. SOF core tasks. The programs provide overarching assistance capabilities to host-nations, or HN, and are coordinated through diplomatic channels, or authorized by executive order in combat environments. The type of assistance and funding selected is dependent on the lead (executive authority) department or agency, the operational environment and type of element, and to which department or ministry of the HN the support is being provided. Some of these programs and activities include nation assistance, security assistance, foreign-humanitarian assistance and FID.

FID is a top–down driven program tailored to provide or develop specific requirements to create or enhance a nation’s internal defense capabilities. FID provides assistance through a foreign government’s civilian and military departments and agencies to programs established by the government, designed to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism and other threats to internal security.6 This assistance usually supports a nation’s internal defense and development, or IDAD, plan upon their request. In a combat environment such as Iraq, the program creates capabilities from the ground-up to combat its internal threats as the government is being formed. If combat operations are authorized under executive order, as with Operation Iraqi Freedom, or OIF, FID can be a valuable program used to assist in creating government forces capable of maintaining a secure environment within its nation’s borders.

The ideology governing FID, in other than a combat environment recognizes its activities as a preventive effort. If successful, the activities preclude the need to deploy larger maneuver units or multinational forces and equipment to a hostile environment that the HN becomes unable to control. During major combat operations like OIF, the FID program is a force multiplier, providing HN force capability, and replacing the requirement for foreign forces. The strategic end state of FID is to provide the HN with capabilities within its own instruments of power to eradicate internal threats. For its military, that includes the ability to use offensive, defensive and stability operations. Success criteria in achieving stability and security include maintaining legitimacy of the government through the eyes of the populace, and respect of the government forces enforcing law and order within the authorities of the government.

FID programs in a noncombat environment are most often authorized through the Department of State as the lead agent, working through the respective U.S. country team. The majority of FID activities are administered by Department of Defense assets, authorized by the Secretary of Defense in support of the respective geographic combatant commander’s theater security cooperation plan. The U.S. forces, whether a single SOF element, a joint force or task-organized as an interagency activity, conduct FID in direct and or indirect support to HN activities. There is a unity of effort and purpose in the operational design of each program, providing a nested concept capability to support national security objectives within each geographical region. That flexibility enables its use during peacetime, in support of stability, security, transition and reconstruction operations, as well as other components of full-spectrum operations.

Indirect FID operations are effective for a HN when their forces or agencies involved are already self-sufficient in conducting the specific type of operations. A joint combined exchange training, or JCET, mission conducted by U.S. SOF is one example that provides a training venue to enhance the HN capabilities under the indirect FID model. Indirect support activities are designed to limit the exposure and operational involvement of foreign forces that may intensify conflict between the HN government and groups that pose internal threats to stability and security. Other programs of indirect support include multinational and joint exercises, military exchange and educational programs, and equipment transfer and training.

The SF FID mission in Iraq, although conducted in a combat environment, began its transition to an indirect role as the Iraqi Special Operations Force, referred to as ISOF, and other SF-trained units within Iraq became proficient enough to conduct independent CT operations. Prior to that, SF teams conducted unilateral CT missions as the training and venues for the Iraqi CT forces began to form. Once ISOF gained proficiency in the art of planning and executing CT operations, SF maintained a direct role in the missions, conducting operations alongside the ISOF. For reasons that will be explored later in this article, SF conduct these operations for two reasons. First, to allow ISOF to gain confidence in the U.S. SF as advisers and practitioners of the doctrine taught to them. Second, during each mission SF conduct a proficiency evaluation of the Iraqi force to determine the need for follow-on remedial training.

Direct operations in support of FID involve the use of U.S. forces conducting operations to support the HN populace or the military. Conducting that type of operation may be necessary after assessments determine that the HN does not possess adequate capabilities or resources to conduct the activities independently, or under urgent circumstances involving an imminent threat to life or a humanitarian crisis.  Direct operations expose U.S. forces as overtly involved in supporting the HN.

Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Force's 8th Regional Commando Battalion hand out backpacks to students at teh Al-Ahdaf Primary school on Jan. 30. Their mission, reflective of U.S. Civil Affairs actions in Iraq, builds rapport with the people. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emmanuel Rios)The U.S. Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC, SF, Civil Affairs and Military Information Support units have been the leading effort in the U.S. FID program supporting CT operations in Iraq since its inception. The core tasks of these units, collectively, are tailored to address the complex issues of a continuously evolving IW environment.

There are numerous missions that fall under the umbrella of Civil Affairs operations that have been a quintessential asset to accomplishing the strategic and operational objectives in direct support of the Iraq FID program. The MIS units contribute directly to the host-nation IDAD plan. This capability facilitates the necessary degree of acceptance and support from the populace through undermining terrorist and insurgent propaganda and promoting the national objectives of the Iraqi government. The true limits of the SF capabilities in support of FID in Iraq and elsewhere have yet to be realized.

During combat operations, U.S. forces supporting FID will use indirect and direct missions, and combat operations to assist HN forces. The doctrinal orientation for conducting combat operation using FID is not necessarily analogous with how the Iraq FID program evolved. There are fundamental principles to maintaining the mission focus of FID during combat. First, combat operations do not usurp the priorities of the FID force in supporting the HN IDAD plan. Second, security and support of the populace remain essential elements to accomplishing operational objectives of FID. A third principle provides a more common objective between FID and combat operations. Direct operations in FID will generally increase, as will ARSOF core-task responsibilities, working with and through HN forces to regain stability and control. This will provide the HN force with an advantage to gain command and control of the developing situation.

FID is conducted by conventional and SOF forces, however Title 10 U.S. Code recognizes FID as a special-operations activity, “insofar as it relates to special operations,” as listed under the authority and special-operations activities of the commander of the United Special Operations Command.7

Conventional forces that conduct FID accomplish their responsibilities as subject-matter experts on the tasks they are responsible for training foreign forces to execute. The conventional FID force in Iraq, composed of U.S. and coalition forces, has conducted significant FID operations, mainly in the tasks encompassing counterinsurgency, or COIN. They have been very successful in training the Iraqi conventional forces to a sustainable level of proficiency in their associated mission tasks.   

It is well-documented in doctrinal and other publications that U.S. SOF possess unique capabilities that enable them to conduct FID activities in a more enduring and responsive manner. ARSOF receive extensive foreign-language training. The units are usually regionally oriented and attuned to cultural, religious and ethnic customs, values and traditions. Whether they are conducting operations within their region of expertise or deployed elsewhere, ARSOF personnel are sensitive to the political implications and national interests that their actions, decisions and mission accomplishments affect. These attributes, amplified by regionally oriented persistent engagement of forces, allow a more interactive relationship to form with foreign forces, not only as trainers but also as advisers and mentors; as partner forces during combat operations.

These attributes predicate a bond that enhances the training of HN forces beyond a trainer/trainee mentality. They promote greater unity of effort within branches of government, at all levels, involved with force generation, training and sustainment. Within the civil populace, identified as a center of gravity in a IW environment, these attributes pertain to the phenomenon of acceptance, however temporary, to foreign-force occupation. An examination of the ARSOF FID mission in Iraq, and these attributes that amplify the successes, will hopefully foment discussion that will articulate the full value and unrealized capabilities of what is characterized as the U.S. SOF FID capability. 

SOF FID in Iraq

Militayr Information Support Soldiers filled a vital role in Iraq, addressing issues in the IW environment advantageous to terror networks and insurgents. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson)U.S. SOF in Iraq were under the operational control of the Joint Forces Special Operations Command - Iraq, or JFSOC-I. A general-officer command, JFSOC-I, is responsible for the synchronization of personnel, resources and special-operations activities of all U.S. SOF forces operating in Iraq. Among these forces is the Combined Joint Special Options Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, or CJSOTF-AP, which is commanded on a rotational basis by the commanders of 5th and 10th Special Forces groups.

The CJSOTF-AP has command and control of three regional commands known as special-operations task forces, or SOTFs. The SOTF is an SF battalion headquarters element with CA and MIS assets available to facilitate operations in the IW environment. Each SOTF plans, coordinates and resources the FID activities within its area of responsibility.  The disposition of SF within the regions consists of company headquarters and/or operational detachment-Alphas, better known as A-teams, that are co-located with Iraqi CT forces, headquarter elements or training facilities.

The SOF FID program was implemented during OIF II. The first Iraqi forces trained for offensive operations by SF occurred late in 2003 under the directive of JTF-7 and the coalition provisional authority.8 The battalion was designated the 36th Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, or 36th ICDC. In December 2003, by a directive from the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the U.S. SF formed and trained the Iraqi Counterterrorism Force, or ICTF. There were other commando; reconnaissance, or RECCE, and Iraqi National Guard, or ING, units being trained during the same period by SF advisers throughout the country. One such unit was the 202 ING, formed and trained by a detachment from the 3rd SF Group. The initiative of this detachment to create the 202 ING highlights the professionalism and character, situational awareness and understanding of the joint-operational environment required for a bottom-up combat-FID training plan. The 202 ING with its SF advisers would distinguish itself in Operation Baton Rouge during the battle of Samarra.

The Iraqi CT force has evolved from the units mentioned above into a two-brigade unit that includes supporting elements, a dedicated intelligence capability and a force-generating training center. The ISOF 1st Brigade consists of five battalions: the Commando, ICTF, Support, Iraq Special Warfare Center, or ISWCS, and the RECCE battalions. The 2nd Brigade has command and control over the four regional commando battalions. Its command-and-control authority falls under the Counterterrorism Command, or CTC, which is subordinate to the Counterterrorism Service, or CTS. CTS is a ministry-level position under the authority of the prime minister as per his determination.9

The ISWCS conducts all ISOF training. The training center is the result of the scope of ARSOF FID planning, integration and dedication to establishing an Iraqi CT capability. As SF maintain advisers at ISWCS for continuity and bilateral training, ISWCS training teams are also embedded within the ISOF brigade units to ensure continuity of internal training.

When the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement was reached in 2008, a majority of the command-and-control authorities were transitioned over to the Iraqi command structure, with ISOF forces numbering more than 4,000. This number of trained personnel, over a seven-year period, provided sufficient numbers of personnel in accordance with the unit authorizations as of April 2008, while validating the second and third SOF Truths: Quality is better than quantity; and Special-operations forces cannot be mass-produced.

This broad historical overview outlines the complexity of the FID program executed by U.S. SOF during OIF. It illustrates capabilities that extend beyond the traditional FID established for a successful end state. Highlighting the achievements of ARSOF FID alone prohibits the recognition and appreciation of how and why ARSOF forces execute the tasks associated with FID so successfully and in such a way that positively affects the HN forces’ survivability and legitimacy at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

The scope of the ARSOF missions in Iraq can be examined using an applicable assessment tool that provides the bases for ARSOF FID functions. The metrics used to measure the overall capabilities and successes of the SOF FID program in Iraq are identified in Lt. Col. Mark Ulrich’s publication, Cutting the Gordian Knot:  The Counterguerrilla’s Guide to Defeating Insurgencies and Conducting Populist Centric Operations.10His work provides guidelines on the application of tactical counterinsurgency operations and a how-to guide detailing training and advisory responsibilities.

The publication bases its premise on the best practices of U.S. Army and joint doctrine as applied throughout the geographical theaters. Ulrich identifies four categories used to assess HN forces for planning, operations and resourcing purposes during FID and security-force assistance, or SFA, in support of the HN IDAD plan. The assessment categories include leadership, training, sustainment and professionalization.  His articulation of the assessment categories provides ample depth to the criteria required to analyze the ARSOF FID activities during OIF. Highlighting the execution of the ARSOF FID will substantiate the legitimacy of its legacy; a highly trained, professional and legitimate Iraqi counterterrorism force capable of self-generation and sustainment, with leadership, command and control and a headquarters hierarchy able to provide the necessary funding, personnel and resources to sustain the force.

Training. The SOF FID training during operations in a combat environment relies on effective short- and long-term planning. ARSOF commanders envision the evolution of the HN security force as a continuum that extends from the training of basic soldier skills through the advisory responsibilities, working with the HN force made self-sufficient through effective training, experience and leadership.

The training and adviser role is not limited to the CT “operator.” Equivalent to an indigenous force in an unconventional-warfare environment, the new Iraqi security forces had to be built from the ground up. According to SF advisers, only about half of the trainees had any prior military experience.

Understanding the operational environment, SOF planners were aware of the demographics and religious divergence that had begun to erode Iraq’s internal security. The focus was to create a capable CT force that would maintain credibility of their authority and legitimacy as a government force in the eyes of the Iraqi people. Personnel were selected from different ethnic and religious orientations covering all regions of Iraq. This selection process enabled the force to focus on unit training and missions as an Iraqi [government] security force, and conduct operations indiscriminately. It became a compelling factor to the professionalization of the force and its legitimacy within the populace.

SOF planners also realized the immediate need for proper training facilities. The needs statement prompted diplomatic involvement that resulted in trilateral agreements to have the ICTF trained in Jordan. The use of Jordanian facilities, and U.S. and Jordanian Special Forces trainers greatly reduced the security risks and training time for the ICTF to become operational. The Jordanian training venues were used until proper Iraqi facilities could be constructed, resulting in the ISWCS.

In developing multiple options to expedite the initial training of the ISOF, coordinations were made through conventional forces for the use of U.S. training assets in country. After the 3rd SF Group detachment located at forward operating base, or FOB, Brassfield-Moro formed a cohort battalion that would become the 202 ING, similar needs requests for a training venue were sent through the SF headquarters. Coordinations were made to transport the battalion-size force to the 1st Infantry Division [basic] training center in Tikrit. The ODA in-processed the Iraqi cohort and issued uniforms and equipment. They assumed responsibility of the school for two months. The ODA conducted basic training and small-unit tactics up to platoon-size maneuver during that period.

Shortly after returning to the FOB, the unit was engaged in Operation Baton Rouge. The 202 ING was placed under control of the Iraqi conventional forces after the battle for Samarra, though the SF A-team maintained operational control of one platoon, focusing training on intelligence and targeting in support of their CT mission.11

Creating a sustainable force required personnel proficient in all supporting roles for the CT battalions and later brigade elements. The selection-and-assessment process conducted by detachment members included placement of personnel in supporting positions such as drivers, crew-served-weapons positions, communications and intelligence personnel. Along with this training was the introduction to staff functions for the soldiers and officers working within the headquarters elements. Training officers and soldiers for staff functions also included providing the ISOF brigade and CTC with CA and MIS capabilities.

Developing leaders who promote a professional force within the headquarters staff sections is an implied task for elements such as SF liaison elements, or SFLEs, and military transition teams, known as MiTTs. SFLEs consisted of SF NCOs and officers assigned to the ISOF brigade and CTC and assisted with intelligence fusion from the dynamic network that supports CT operations. As transitioning authorities progressed, MiTTs that included ARSOF personnel advised the Iraqi staff in their duties and responsibilities.

After the Soldiers returned from initial training in Jordan, it became the receiving detachments’ responsibilities to also train selected soldiers to a level of proficiency in supporting roles of the CT operations. As OIF transitioned through its phases, ODAs and AOBs (company-level operations) were eventually  provided personnel to assist in training respective of their military occupational specialty, or MOS.12 One of ARSOF’s greatest capabilities is being a force multiplier. The ability to develop unit-supporting roles coincides with ensuring proficiency and long-term sustainment of the HN force.

Leadership. Developing leaders within ISOF is the cornerstone of all other assessment criteria and is interrelated with the development of a professional force. Instilling or recognizing leadership traits in HN force officers and NCOs facilitate the discipline and professionalism needed to create a legitimate force. For ARSOF in Iraq, leadership attributes and competencies do not only have to be exemplified, but the leadership-selection process for the ICTF involved a constant assessment process. The SF advisers know it is prudent not to set the standards of performance to their own level. In the same light, they know that when assessing soldiers for leadership potential, trying to find personnel who exhibit all the attributes and competencies of a leader will not make the selection process productive. Identifying particular leadership traits in individuals and promoting the development of them became a tool for successful professional leadership development of the Iraq leaders.

As advisers to the Iraqi force, SF lived, worked and interacted on a daily basis with their respective Iraqi partner force. This interrelationship builds on the leadership traits of the partner force through the observation of leader characteristics, professional conduct, respect for the rule of law and concern for the welfare of subordinates.

These assessments were conducted throughout all phases of training and combat operations. SF members selected the Iraqi partner-force leadership at the tactical, operational and strategic levels or presented a much-respected opinion on possible candidates. During initial training phases in Jordan and Tikrit, leadership positions would change hands between prospective candidates until the correct characteristic presented a leadership structure complementary to the unit and mission. One example of the leadership-selection process occurred in January 2006. SF SOTF commanders, one of whom was Lt. Col. Barry Naylor, currently the commander, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, JFK Special Warfare Center and School, selected and promoted Maj. Gen. Fadhel al-Barwari to assume command of the ISOF brigade. Providing credibility and respect of the promotion in the eyes of the Iraqi ministry-level representatives, and the prime minister, Maj. Gen. al-Barwari  is still the ISOF Brigade commander.

Sustainment. A strategic objective for the FID program is to provide the Iraqi government with a CT capability. The long-term sustainment of the ICTF would be ensured as the GoI recognized its capability as a national asset to promote stability. Several milestones in the ARSOF FID process attributed to the sustainment of the Iraqi CT capability. Two of those milestones include the force-generating capability established with the creation of the ISWCS and the formation of the command-and-control headquarters elements.

Long-range planning for ISOF envisioned an Iraqi force-generating capability operating independently from the advisory and supporting responsibility of the U.S. government and its SOF personnel. SF played a major role in the creation of the ISWCS. U.S. ARSOF assistance includes establishing the need for a training venue, providing SF trainers, funding and presently providing SF advisory personnel for continuity. The selection-and-assessment process provides personnel for operations as well as supporting positions. As the ISOF capability expanded into two brigades, ISWCS became an independent element under the CTC with its own funding source. This capability ensures the sustainment of personnel into the CT force.

A major step toward the force-sustainment capability came with the recognition of the ICTF as a national CT asset and the creation of its command-and-control headquarters. ISOF was under operational control of the CJSOTF-AP until September 2006, when a memorandum of agreement was signed between the commander, Multinational Forces-Iraq and the Iraqi prime minister. The agreement placed all Iraqi forces under the control of the GoI, to include ISOF. SOF planners then sent SF trained staff personnel to the Iraqi Joint Headquarters, or IJHQ. That action gave ISOF subject-matter experts the ability to advise the IJHQ staff. The same tasks were filled by SF, CA and MIS personnel at the ISOF brigade and CTC. The SFLEs conducted advisory responsibilities within the staff and coordination and the deconfliction of information and operations. CA and MIS elements are involved in planning at this level, training of Iraqi staff members on how best to incorporate their enabling assets and capabilities.

Other milestones not elaborated on are the expansion of ISOF elements to regional outposts, the security-force funding prior to assumption of responsibility by the GoI and the transitional phased planning that allowed a persistent engagement of ARSOF personnel with the entire
ICTF structure.

Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum, commander of the Iraqi National Counterterrorism Force Transition Team, thanks Maj. Gen. Fadhel al Barwari, the commanding officer of the Iraq Special Operations Forces, for his support. (Photo by Petty Officer Second Class Jimmy Pan)Professionalization. Developing a professional force in an IW environment is arguably the highest priority. A professional force will encompass and enhance the other functions of a FID program. The U.S. FID advisers realize that in an IW environment, the population is the center of gravity for operations. Training a disciplined, professional CT force that conducts its duties within the scope of applicable laws and authority, with respect for the Iraqi citizens, will be the defining factor in winning the support of the people.

ARSOF advisers provided professional development to the ISOF soldiers, NCOs and officers through their actions and execution of responsibilities; demonstrating the “what” and “how” of the way a professional force operates. The professionalism is reinforced with proper instruction that answers the “why” to the U.S. forces’ committed efforts. The social, religious and cultural knowledge ARSOF forces possess of their operational area allows them to exemplify professionalism and leadership traits in a proper and influential manner to their partner force. The interrelationships detailed in the training function provide core elements that build on the trust and confidence in the Iraqi force.

When FID combat operations began, SF took the lead when executing missions with the Iraqi force. That provided the opportunity for the ICTF to observe the actions of the SF members. The ISOF responsibilities increased as SF training, observations and experience led them to the required level of operational proficiency. Eventually, SF began to take a supporting role in operations while evaluating the Iraqi forces’ mission planning and execution. This transition of responsibility became the impetus of the Iraqi force to emulate the operational procedures and conduct of their advisers.

The same efforts are conducted by CA and MIS Soldiers during the execution of their responsibilities. Whether training a partner force in their applicable duties or conducting missions, ARSOF Soldiers are cognizant of the mission success and political implication once the transition of authority and responsibility is placed with the Iraqi force.


The ARSOF force operating in Iraq has brought the doctrinal capabilities to fruition in its execution of the Iraqi SOF FID program. In an IW combat environment, a “protracted” conflict is relevant, and we must never forget the many sacrifices made to accomplish the strategic objective so successfully. ARSOF have been an invaluable military asset to the U.S. strategy in Iraq. By accomplishing the Iraq CT mission and having a positive impact on the counterinsurgency mission, the force has established an environment favorable for the Iraqi government to provide for its people through the democratic process.

In October 2011, the determination was made within diplomatic channels not to have U.S. forces, SOF or conventional, retain an enduring presence in Iraq. That does not mean an end to the Iraqi FID program. Title 10 FID functions will most likely continue for ARSOF in the form of JCET events, military educational exchanges and even further development with the counterinsurgency effort using conventional and SOF forces.

The future of the ISOF capability now rests solely in the hands of the Iraqi government. ARSOF forces should remain exceptionally proud of the professional, self-generating ICTF they are responsible for developing at the tactical and operational levels. A successful strategic plan for ISOF provides for the force to remain an impartial military command, providing a national CT capability to the GoI in its effort to control a stable Iraq as a legitimate governing democracy.

Master Sgt. Michael O’Brien is assigned to HHC, JFK Special Warfare Center and School. He has served in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst and as an SF engineer, intelligence sergeant, detachment operations sergeant and company operations sergeant while assigned to the 1st and 5th SF groups and the 96th CA Battalion. Master Sgt. O’Brien has earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Hudson Valley Community College, a bachelor’s in liberal arts from Excelsior College and a master’s in strategic security studies from the National Defense University. He has participated in numerous operations in Asia, Central America and the Middle East.


1. President George W. Bush, On Iraq War Progress and Vision, speech delivered on 28 June 2005, Fort Bragg, NC. Accessed 12 September 2011.

2. National Security Strategy, May 2010. Washington D.C., GPO, 3, 11, 24-26. A repetitive theme of the strategic outlook.

3. Elements of national power for the United States traditionally include diplomatic, information, military and economic and are known as the DIME. Recently, for specific uses such as the Partnership to Defeat Terrorism, geared toward addressing domestic issues, law enforcement has been added as an element.

4. Irregular warfare: A violent struggle among state and nonstate actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s). Irregular warfare favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capacities, in order to erode an adversary’s power, influence and will (Joint Publication 1-02, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 189). An IW environment is predicated by the use of irregular forces and tactics.

5. Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2006 (Section 9010), Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, May 2006 (Washington, D.C.: GPO), 1-5. This report echoes the three preceding reports to Congress on the same subject.

6. Joint Publication 1-02, 145, and FM 3-05.2, Foreign Internal Defense, Glossary-5. The foreign internal defense definition is paraphrased. Definitions from both references are similar.

7. Title 10 USC, Chapter 6, is added as an amendment by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, Section 214. Chapter 6, Section 167, references special-operations activities; Chapter 101, Section 2010, concerns training foreign forces. Accessed 3 September 2011.

8. Unknown author, Iraqi Special Operations Forces Overview, CJSOTF-AP, April 2010, 1-3.

9. Iraqi Executive Order 61, April 5, 2007, and the 9204 Report to Congress: Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, March 2010, 70.

10. Lt. Col. Mark Ulrich, “Cutting the Gordian Knot: The Counterguerrilla’s Guide to Defeating Insurgencies and Conducting Populist Centric Operations,” October 2010.

11. Information concerning the training of the 202nd ING provided by the then-team sergeant of ODB 3220, the detachment training the unit.

12. Information pertaining to training of ISOF personnel received during interview with the operations sergeant for ODA 3222. During OIF II, he was an 18E on a detachment in the 3rd SF Group.

THIS issue

January-March 2012
Volume 25 | Issue 1

Special Warfare cover, January-March 2012

Special Warfare

Special Warfare is an authorized, official quarterly publication of the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, N.C. Its mission is to promote the professional development of special-operations forces by providing a forum for the examination of established doctrine and new ideas.

Views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official Army position. This publication does not supersede any information presented in other official Army publications.