Iraq Struggles to Rebuild Special Forces After Mosul Losses

US-Trained CTS Lost 40% of Its Manpower During Fighting

Officials have bragged about how important Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) were in the Mosul battle. The US-trained elite forces lost roughly 40% of their manpower in nine months of fighting, which has the US and Iraq looking to restore the group after those huge losses.

It’s not so easy for Iraq to find qualifying candidates, however. An online recruiting drive scored them 300,000 applicants, but only about 3,000 got beyond the initial preliminary screening, and less than 1,000 of those getting to the point where they’re likely to even be accepted into the academy.

The CTS numbers about 10,000, officially, but between the huge losses sustained in Mosul and the Pentagon’s plans to grow the group to 20,000 within the next year, they’re going to need a lot more people who can get accepted into the training than that.

Much of this problem centers on the Shi’ite government’s desperation to ensure that the CTS is loyal, which is likely excluding vast swathes of the Iraqi population, who are members of tribes or religious factions that aren’t seen as sufficiently loyal.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.