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Iraqi Special Operations Forces
Special Operations Iraq SSI.svg
Active December 26, 2003 – Present
Country  Iraq
Branch Iraqi Army
Type Special Forces
Size 10,000
Part of Iraqi Counter Terrorism Bureau (reports directly to Prime Minister of Iraq)
Motto(s) May you sleep peacefully in your bed tonight for a mighty sword stands ready to strike fear in the hearts of those who would terrorize us!
Engagements Anti-guerrilla operations in Iraq as part of the Iraq War
Brig. Gen. Fadhil Jalil al-Barwari
ISOF flag Special Operations Iraq Flag.svg

Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) (Arabic language: قوات العمليات الخاصة العراقية‎) refers to the Iraqi special forces unit created by Coalition forces after the 2003 invasion. As of November 2009, the forces, directed by the Iraqi Counter-Terrorist Bureau, consist of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorist Command, which has two brigades subordinate to it. The Counter-Terrorist Bureau is funded by the Ministry of Defence (Iraq).


Most special operations troops in the old Iraqi army were Sunni Arabs, selected for their loyalty to Saddam Hussein, and sometimes used against their own people. Because of this, the current Iraqi commando force had to be recruited from scratch, mostly from Kurds and Shia Arabs. In November 2005, after two years of training in Jordan with Jordanian and US Army Special Forces, the Iraqi Special Operations Force had 1440 men trained, composed into two combat battalions and two support battalions.[1]

In March 2008, the force consisted of a single brigade which in turn was made up of an Iraqi National Counter-Terrorism Force (INCTF) battalion, three Commando battalions, a support battalion and a special reconnaissance unit.[2]

Command structure

The two brigades are the 1st Special Operations Brigade, in Baghdad with the 1st, 2nd, and 5th Battalions, a brigade support battalion and a training battalion/Iraqi Special Warfare Center and School. The 1st Battalion is the renamed Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion.[3]

The 2nd Special Operations Brigade has four commando battalions [1440-men], currently at Basra, Mosul, Diyala and Al Asad. The battalions at Basra and Mosul achieved Iraqi Operational Control (IOC) in January 2008 and conduct local operations. Regional CT Centers (RCCs), similar to Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) organizations, will be established at all four regional commando bases to develop intelligence on terrorist networks in their region.

CT pilot training

In February 2008, the Iraqi Air Force, with Coalition Advisors, began night vision goggle (NVG) training as the basis for future counter-terrorism (CT) pilot training. Potential CT pilots and aircrew will undergo NVG flying introduction in order to select the best pilots for advanced CT aviation training as early as April 2008. Selected pilots will continue to log NVG training hours in order to attain a proficiency level that prepares them for Advanced Special Operations specific training as early as late summer 2008. Once fielded, this special operations aviation capability will reside in the Iraqi Air Force's 15 Squadron,[4] which currently fields Mil Mi-17 helicopters.[5]

See also


  1. Special Operations: Iraqi Special Operations Forces
  2. Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq - March 2008 Report to Congress
  3. DJ Elliott, Iraqi Counter Terrorist Bureau (page 8, Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle), Montrose Toast, information cut-off date 30 November 2009, via Iraqi Order of Battle
  4. Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq - March 2008 Report to Congress

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