BAGHDAD, Iraq – Over the last couple of months, much has changed here, and the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) are certainly no exception. Brick by brick and layer by layer – the elite fighting force has been laying down the foundation of its much-anticipated ISOF 2nd Brigade.
Although the new ISOF headquarters has been functioning since early March, the 2nd Brigade was officially activated during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on a military compound in the Iraqi capital, Aug. 4.
“I am thrilled to join Iraq’s best and most elite fighting force to mark this special milestone in the history of Iraqi special operations,” said Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum. “This force, born of necessity and developed through years of hard work, sweat and blood, has built a close and lasting friendship and partnership with U.S. Special Operations Forces. Our relationship shares a common goal to defeat insurgents and terrorists in Iraq.”
As the 2nd Brigade focuses on regions outside of Baghdad, the ISOF 1st Brigade, which was formerly known as the ‘ISOF Brigade’ or the ‘Golden Brigade,’ will continue to focus on the area in and around the capital. In essence, the ISOF Brigade has been restructured into two separate commands to improve the ability of taking the fight to the enemy’s front door.
Though the headquarters element is relatively new to the ISOF footprint, the subordinate commando battalions dispersed across the country have been operating in their respective regions. The regional battalions were formerly under the command of the 1st Brigade leadership.
“By consolidating the [command and control] of the commando battalions in Basrah, Mosul, Diyala, and Al Asad under one headquarters, ISOF is better equipped to rapidly respond anywhere at any time,” Mangum claimed.
Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Abdul Ghani, the commander of the Counter-Terrorism Center which oversees ISOF, reminded the audience that the 2nd ISOF Brigade has prevailed and is now ready to join the fight for Iraq’s future.
“We have marked the points of all the letters and now we have the activation of the 2nd ISOF Brigade,” Ghani explained.
In a room filled with U.S. and Iraqi leaders, Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Taleb Shegati Al-Kenani, the commander of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, expressed his vision for the newly-formed brigade.
“This headquarters will always work for Iraq and our priority is going to be to destroy all the terrorists and insurgents against Iraq,” he said. “Iraq still faces many challenges. There are still a lot of terrorists and insurgents who want to destroy our country.”
Mangum agreed, noting that the activation of the 2nd ISOF Brigade highlights the Government of Iraq’s serious commitment to continue to press the fight against its enemies to every corner of this country.
“Since we are the counter-terrorism force, we have a duty to fight those terrorists… to make Iraq safe and stable,” Kenani continued. “All the successful operations over the last couple of months have been proof that they are capable.”
Kenani went on to express his hope that the new brigade will continue to achieve mission success, providing quality guidance for the regions, and ridding the streets of terrorists all across Iraq. He also stressed his confidence in having “commanders who have the wisdom and the ability to run the operation, especially since this ISOF Brigade covers Iraq in its entirety.”
The commander of the new Brigade, Brig. Gen. Karim Halfa, thanked everyone for sharing this special occasion with him. He gave special thanks to Maj. Gen. Fadhel Al-Barwari, commander of the 1st Brigade, whom he called “my dear brother and dear friend” for his constant support. “[The 1st Brigade] indeed has an important role in building the 2nd ISOF brigade.”
With the red ribbon cut, the ISOF officially had two brigades to take on the challenges of an ever-changing country and they both stand ready to continue efforts in providing Iraq and its people with a chance of a more promising future.
“My hope for the future is to see people who left the country coming back to their homes and tourists coming in to visit a better and beautiful Iraq,” said the deputy commanding officer of the Iraqi Army 2nd Brigade, Brig. Gen. Fallah Kadim. “I want people to fill the streets and feel completely safe and secure. That is the future I want for this country.”