July 18, 2009:
Troop drawdowns in Iraq are getting most of the headlines these days, but despite no further increases in U.S. troop deployments, new units are still being rotated into the country. Beginning in the fall, four new American "training brigades" will be deploying to the country to assist the Iraqi Security Forces with training and tactical support in their fight against the insurgents.
The combat units that have previously been deployed to Iraq have primarily consisted of the Army's brigade combat teams (BCTs) and are specifically configured to participate in direct combat. With major participation by US forces in urban combat operations coming to a close, the new units being rotated in country are of a completely different structure to reflect their new mission of training and mentoring.
The brigades are known as Advisory and Assistance Brigades (AABs) and focus is less on fighting than on teaching. They do, however, have potent combat capabilities and have the leeway to jointly conduct combat operations along with the Iraqis when it is deemed necessary to further developing the security forces and gathering intelligence and combat lessons.
The AAB is the size of a standard brigade combat team, but it includes more field officers who serve as mentors, and contains more support elements such as military police, engineers (for civil construction projects and engineering instruction), civil affairs, and transportation. In short, the AAB is a unit tailor made not only for counter-insurgency training but for winning over the native population.
The 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions are among the units being assigned to the task. With the mission in Iraq shifting focus, unit structure and pre-deployment training are shifting along with it. Despite the new deployments, overall troops strength in Iraq will not rise above the 128,000 troops currently stationed in the country.