A complete version of the Baiji military parade from the end of last week has been posted; what follows is a rough accounting of the military capabilities displayed in the parade, which are likely either being used in today’s assault on the Baiji refinery in the town’s north or at least representative of the forces at ISIS disposal in the area.
The parade contained 35 identifiable ISIS vehicles, 2 of which were normal trucks and 6 of which were Iraqi Army HMMWVs (Humvees). The other 27 vehicles were Toyota or captured ISF Ford 4×4 pickup trucks, 7 of which had heavy machine guns mounted (12.7mm DShKMs or 14.5mm KPVTs). Being ferried were 210+ fighters, most of whom looked like regular ISIS fighters based on their gear, vice the new recruits seen recently in Mosul. The true numbers for both vehicles and fighters in the parade are likely higher, given that not all ISIS-associated forces are recognizable, but this gives a decent indication of the type of forces arrayed against ISF in Baiji–the rough equivalent of a U.S. military reconnaissance battalion, which prizes agility over armor, maintaining basic supporting fire capabilities through the usage of 12.7mm or 14.5mm AA guns mounted on 4x4s, or the M2 “Ma Deuce” .50cal (12.7mm) mounted on a HMMWV.
Additionally, the population gathered for the parade appeared extremely supportive. Of course, one cannot determine level of support from such little evidence–and people are intimidated–but the size and excitement of the crowd does not augur well for future ISF attempts to retake insurgent-held portions of Baiji.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff, who writes the military-focused Checkpoint blog for the Washington Post, recently added some granularity to the discussion of ISIS military capabilities in Iraq, noting that the ISIS forces displayed professionalism in equipment preparation and basic tactical combined arms proficiency.