Hanging out with the Iraqi armed forces
In Iraq, there’s a bewildering variety of armed forces everywhere you look. There’s the army, national and local police, private security groups for political parties and religious sects, local militias both legal and illegal, and terrorist groups. Individuals can be in more than one force and the factions are tied together in a complex web of alliances and rivalries.
A few months ago I spent three weeks traveling in Iraq and got to spend a lot of time with the Iraqi police and a fair amount of time with the army too. Tourism in Iraq is still in its early stages and only a few companies have permission to go there. Individual tourism is forbidden and all groups have a police escort and occasionally army escorts as well.
It’s difficult to make any generalizations about the armed forces in Iraq. Some are armed with AK-47s, some with M-16s. Some wear Kevlar, some don’t. Some drive around in APCs or Hummers while many simply pile into the back of pickup trucks protected by sheet metal, making lovely targets for anyone with an RPG.
Below are some images I gathered while touring the country.
When we passed through the Sunni Triangle we got an escort of Special Forces
Oh wait, make that “Spacel Forcas”. It looks like The Punisher is popular in Iraq!
The army guys get to ride around in pimped-up Hummers.
Here’s their logo.
Mostly we were provided with regular police. They tended to be more laid back than the Army guys. Here’s one gathering fruit by the side of the highway.
Here’s some detail of the police insignia.
The police have some Hummers and APCs, but mostly have to use pickup trucks with a bit of armoring. I doubt that the sheets of metal on the sides could stop a bullet.
The green uniform is national police. The guys in the blue uniform are from local police. They’re on the roof of Saddam’s palace in Babylon.
Two members of the national police guarding the gate of Babylon. Note that they’re wearing different uniforms than the other national police I’ve shown. This may have been because of supply problems, regional differences, or some other reason. I could never get a clear answer.
Accompanying us 24/7 were two plainclothes officers from the Interior Ministry. Here’s Captain Ali shooting at a not-too-distant can. He fired four times and missed each time. That wasn’t terribly reassuring.
In general the Iraqi armed forces, like the Iraqis in general, were welcoming and interested in talking with us. My few hundred words of bad Arabic got put to the test every day. A couple of them proudly told me they had served with the Coalition forces. One even had photos of himself and his U.S. Army buddies on his cell phone.
This is very much a once-over-lightly look at the Iraqi armed forces, so I’ll be hanging out in the comments section if you have any questions.