Coalition Special Operations forces have been fighting the good fight in Iraq for over 17 years. The face of the enemy has somewhat changed over the years, but the tactics the enemy uses to inflict damage and terror have largely remained the same.
Our Special Operations units have proved their worth time and time again while fighting in Iraq. The situation is fluid: Utilizing fast-moving, well-trained, and unconventional forces, have been a key piece to destroying the enemy.
While the U.S. still has Special Operations units rotating to the region, their role, by and large, has transitioned to serving as an advisory force and an emergency element.
With the swing of military responsibility falling on the Iraqi government and its people, the existence of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), also known as the Qwat al-Khasah, which translates to “Special Forces” in Arabic, has never been as vital as it is now.
Following the fall of Saddam Hussein, at the end of 2003, the U.S. assisted the Iraqi army with building a functional and lethal Special Forces unit. Iraqis recruited for the ISOF were sent to Jordan, where they trained with Jordanian and U.S. Special Forces. By 2005, a formidable Iraqi Special Forces unit had been created, consisting of over 1,400 men. Their number now has grown to well over 3,000.
The ISOF is broken up into three Brigades, stationed in critical areas such as Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Diyala, and al-Asad. These units specialize in counter-terrorism, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, area clearance, and ambushes. The Qwat al-Khasah is a mobile and agile force: they have the capability of responding to anywhere in Iraq within 96 hours.
ISOF has earned a reputation for being very reliable and lethal. It has been on the front lines of many pivotal operations, including the elimination of terrorist leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi in 2010 and the retaking of Mosul from the Islamic State in 2016.
The current U.S. Special Forces Commander advising the ISOF stated, “The Special Forces of Iraq have a long and prestigious history as a well-known and highly respected unit prior to the partnership with Coalition Special Operations. When the Qwat al-Khasah arrive at locations throughout Iraq, just their presence in the area has a stabilizing effect as they are highly respected by the people for their humanity and outreach to locals, but also because of their skill at closing with and destroying Daesh.”
This is not the first time that Iraq has a Special Operations unit in its arsenal. ISOF traces its lineage back to the mid-1950s. Then, the Iraqi SOF were known as the “Queen Alia Forces.” Their main role, similar to today, was to conduct special missions inside Iraq and against other countries during times of war.
Today, ISOF’s bread and butter is counter-terrorism. Under the direction of Operation Inherent resolve, Iraqi Special Forces are working in conjunction with the Joint Special Operations Task Force, bringing down terrorist organizations and making Iraq a safer country.