New Delhi, July 10: The army has given the security establishment two options for sending troops to Iraq in the event New Delhi decides to respond positively to Washington’s request to be part of a stabilisation force.
The army’s force projections were made after it was asked for an assessment on technicalities involved in deploying forces in Iraq. Army sources said this is a requirement for any operation and not a statement of political intent.
One option is to send a reinforced division of some 17,000 troops. The second option is a scaled down force of a brigade-plus, meaning about 5,000-odd troops.
In both cases, the army has projected the need to take along, apart from infantry troops, an armoured/mechanised component (of tanks and BMP armoured all-terrain vehicles), medics and equipment for at least one field hospital, engineers’ units and supply units.
Washington is understood to have told Delhi that it was keen on an Indian troop presence in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. If India decides on sending a force that is less than division-size, it could mean that the responsibility of stabilisation in northern Iraq will be shared with forces from other countries.
For both options, moving Indian troops to Iraq would necessarily be a tri-service operation. Infantry troops will have to be moved by Indian Air Force IL-76 transporters and heavy equipment by naval vessels.
The US has already been able to bring in forces to Iraq from Poland. The Polish have decided to send a brigade of about 2,300, which would work in coordination with a Ukrainian and a Spanish force in central Iraq, with the headquarters for the region in Hilla.
The responsibility for southern Iraq is shared by the US and the UK — the British forces are in Basra province and the Rumaila oilfields.
The Polish-led force will largely be in areas that were so far looked after by the US 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (1 MEF), that led one of the prongs in the dash to Baghdad from Kuwait.
The northern areas of Iraq are largely under the US’ elite 101st Airborne Division and it is this formation that a multinational stabilisation force would relieve. The US is most concerned with central Iraq, where much of the violence is currently taking a heavy toll on Iraqi civilians and American troops.
A foreign ministry officer made a trip to Iraq last week in accordance with the government decision of seeking Iraqi opinion on the presence of Indian troops.