Combatants of the Iraq War

soldier walking through farmland with a river in the background
Marines in Iraq along the Euphrates River

The combatants of the Iraq War include the Multinational Force in Iraq and armed Iraqi insurgent groups. Below is a list of armed groups or combatants that participated in the Iraq War of 2003-2011.


 United States and allies Ba'athist Iraq
 United States
 United Kingdom
Military support:
Iraqi National Congress[1][2][3]

Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga

Ba'athist Iraq

Military support:
Ansar al-Islam
Islamic Group of Kurdistan


 United States and allies Ba'athists, Sunni insurgents and Salafi Jihadis Shia insurgents

Iraqi Kurdistan

Multi-National Force – Iraq (04-11)


Fedayeen Saddam
The Return (al-Awda)
General Command of the Armed Forces, Resistance and Liberation in Iraq
Popular Army
New Return
Patriotic Front
Political Media Organ of the Ba‘ath Party
Popular Resistance for the Liberation of Iraq
Al-Abud Network

Sunni insurgents:
Islamic Army in Iraq (03-11)
Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order (06-11)
Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation (07-11)
Front for Jihad and Change

  • 1920 Revolution Brigade (03-11)
  • Jaish al-Rashideen (03-11)
  • Jaish al-Muslimeen (03-11)
  • Islamic Movement of Iraq's Mujahideen (03-11)
  • Jund al-Rahman (03-11)
  • Saraya al-Dawa wa'l Ribaat (03-11)
  • Empowerment Brigades (03-11)
  • Battalions of Muhammed al-Fatih (04-11)

Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance (03-11)
Hamas of Iraq (07-11)
Jeish Muhammad (03-11)

Salafi Jihadis:
Mujahideen Shura Council (Iraq) (06) then

Islamic State of Iraq (06-11)

  • al-Qaeda in Iraq (04-06)
  • Jeish al-Fatiheen (04-06)
  • Jund al-Sahaba (04-06)
  • Katbiyan Ansar al-Tawhid wal Sunnah (04-06)
  • Jaish al-Ta'ifa al-Mansurah (04-06)
  • Monotheism Supporters Brigades (04-06)
  • Saray al-Jihad group (04-06)
  • al-Ghuraba Brigades (04-06)
  • al-Ahwal Brigades (04-06)

Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (1999-2004)
Jamaat Ansar al-Sunna (04-11)
Ansar al-Islam (04-11)
Black Banner Organization (04-11)
Asaeb Ahl el-Iraq (04-11)
Wakefulness and Holy War (04-11)
Abu Theeb's group (04-11)
Jaish Abi Baker's group (04-11)
Mujahideen Army (04-11)
Mujahideen Battalions of the Salafi Group of Iraq (04-11)
Islamic Salafist Boy Scout Battalions (04-11)

Mahdi Army (03-08)

Abu Deraa's militia (03-08)
Badr Organization (03-11)
Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (03-11)
Sheibani Network (03-11)
Soldiers of Heaven (03-11)
Special Groups (Iraq) (03-11)



Syria Syrian government and allies Syria Syrian opposition and allies
Al-Qaeda and allies
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Syria Syrian government

Popular Mobilization Forces


Syrian opposition Syrian opposition


Jabhat Ansar al-Din

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Coalition troop deployment

Distinctive unit insignia of the Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I)

The Multinational Force in Iraq is a military command led by the United States fighting the Iraq War against Iraqi insurgents. "Multi-National Force — Iraq" replaced the previous force, Combined Joint Task Force 7, on May 15, 2004. The media in the U.S. has used the term U.S.-led coalition to describe this force, as around 93% of the troops are from the United States.[6] Due to the expiration of the UN authorization on foreign troops in Iraq, the end of 2008 was supposed to mark the end of the Multinational Force in Iraq force with all of the remaining coalition partners withdrawing their armed forces.[7] On July 28, 2009, Australian troops departed Iraq, leaving only U.S. troops operating in MNF-I, under the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement.

Troop numbers

As of September 2009, all non-U.S. coalition countries have withdrawn their troops.

United Nations

The United Nations deployed a small contingent to Iraq to protect UN staff and guard their compounds. The U.N. mandate for this force expires in August 2009.

United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI)


Several NATO member-states have deployed instructors to Iraq to train Iraqi security and military forces in conjunction with the MNF: NATO Training Mission - Iraq (NTM-I).

Armed Iraqi groups

The Iraqi insurgency is the armed insurgency, by diverse groups, including private militias, within Iraq opposed to the US led occupation and the U.S.-supported Iraqi government. The fighting has clear sectarian overtones and significant international implications (see Civil war in Iraq.) This campaign has been called the Iraqi resistance by its supporters and the anti-Iraqi forces (AIF) [8] by Coalition forces.


Most of the insurgent attacks are against Coalition forces.

By fall 2003 these insurgent groups began using typical guerrilla tactics: ambushes, bombings, kidnappings, and the use of IEDs. Other actions include mortars and suicide attacks, explosively formed penetrators, small arms fire, anti-aircraft missiles (SA-7, SA-14, SA-16) and RPGs. The insurgents also conduct sabotage against the oil, water, and electrical infrastructure of Iraq. Coalition statistics (see detailed BBC graphic) show that the insurgents primarily targeted coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and infrastructure, and lastly civilians and government officials. These irregular forces favored attacking unarmored or lightly armored Humvee vehicles, the U.S. military's primary transport vehicle, primarily through the use of roadside IED.[9][10] Insurgent groups such as the al-Abud Network have also attempted to constitute their own chemical weapons programs, trying to weaponise traditional mortar rounds with ricin and mustard toxin.[11]

There is evidence that some guerrilla groups are organised on a large scale, perhaps by the fedayeen, Hussein or Ba'ath loyalists, religious radicals, nationalist Iraqis angered by the occupation, and foreign fighters.[12]


Two of the most powerful current militias are the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization, with both militias having substantial political support in the current Iraqi government. Initially, both organisations were involved in the Iraqi insurgency, most clearly seen with the Mahdi Army at the Battle of Najaf. However, in recent months, there has been a split between the two groups.

This violent break between Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the rival Badr Organization of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, seen in the fighting in the town of Amarah on October 20, 2006, would severely complicate the efforts of Iraqi and US officials to quell the soaring violence.[13]

More recently in late 2005 and 2006, due to increasing sectarian violence based on either tribal/ethnic distinctions or simply due to increased criminal violence, various militias have formed, with whole neighborhoods and cities sometimes being protected or attacked by ethnic or neighborhood militias. One such group, known as the Anbar Awakening, was formed in September 2006 to fight against Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups, in the particularly violent Anbar province. Led by Sheik and Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, who heads the Sunni Anbar Salvation Council, the Anbar Awakening has more than 60,000 troops and is seen by key US officials such as Condoleezza Rice as a potential ally to US occupation forces.[14]

Al-Qaeda in Iraq

Al-Qaeda is a group which is playing an active role in the Iraqi insurgency. The group was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi until his death in 2006; it is now believed to be led by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir[15] (aka Abu Ayyub al-Masri.[16])

See also


  1. Graham, Bradley (7 April 2003). "U.S. Airlifts Iraqi Exile Force For Duties Near Nasiriyah". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  2. John Pike (14 March 2003). "Free Iraqi Forces Committed to Democracy, Rule of Law – DefenseLink". Archived from the original on 10 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  3. "Deploying the Free Iraqi Forces – U.S. News & World Report". 7 April 2003. Archived from the original on 4 February 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  4. Kim Ghattas (14 April 2003). "Syrians join Iraq 'jihad'". BBC News. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  5. "Arab volunteers to Iraq: 'token' act or the makings of another Afghan jihad?". Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  6. Partlow, Joshua (2007-12-07). "List of 'Willing' U.S. Allies Shrinks Steadily in Iraq". Washington Post.
  7. Abramowitz, Michael (September 10, 2008). "Most Members of Iraq Coalition Preparing to Pull Up Stakes -". Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  8. Insurgent Ambush Kills 24 Iraqi Police October 27, 2006 Archived February 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Washburn, Mark (2005-06-10). "More Americans Dying from Roadside Bombs in Iraq". Knight-Ridder.
  10. Arun, Neil (2005-10-10). "Shaped bombs magnify Iraq attacks". BBC News.
  11. "Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD" (PDF). Central Intelligence Agency.
  12. "Iraqi attacks could signal wide revolt". The Seattle Times. 2003-06-30.
  13. Semple, Kirk (2006-10-20). "Attack on Iraqi City Shows Militia's Power". New York Times.
  14. Wong, Edward (March 3, 2007). "In Lawless Sunni Heartland of Iraq, a Tribal Chief Opposes the Jihadists, and Prays". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  15. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq names new head", BBC News, June 12, 2006.
  16. Tran, Mark. "Al-Qaida in Iraq leader believed dead", The Guardian, May 1, 2007.
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