Staff Sergeant Roy Mitchell - Someone You Should Know
Protect Afghan Kids This Winter - Part III

Kurds In Iraq - Loyal Servants or Planning Civil War

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Iraqi media capture the moment as Lt. Col. Scott Wuestner, Task Force Thunder commander, passes the battalion colors to Lt. Col. Hogar during the transfer of authority of Iraqi battle space to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, Iraqi army in Makhmur Dec. 27.  Photo by SGT Rachel A. Brune 101st Sustainment Brigade

I wonder if Knight-Ridder had someone in the above photo?  Read on to understand why I ask that.

First, read this article by Tom Lasseter of Knight-Ridder about the Kurds and their "plans" to create their own country.  Is it just bluster and preparedness or is there a plan for civil war?  Or is this just more selling 0f papers?  I'll give you some thoughts at the end of this post:

Kurds in Iraqi army proclaim loyalty to militia

BY TOM LASSETER
Knight Ridder Newspapers

KIRKUK, Iraq - Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region
suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction.

Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still
considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted.

"It doesn't matter if we have to fight the Arabs in our own battalion," said Gabriel Mohammed, a Kurdish soldier in the Iraqi army who was escorting a Knight Ridder reporter through Kirkuk. "Kirkuk will be ours."

The Kurds have readied their troops not only because they've long yearned to establish an independent state but also because their leaders expect Iraq to disintegrate, senior leaders in the Peshmerga - literally, "those who face death" - told Knight Ridder. The Kurds are mostly secular Sunni Muslims, and are ethnically distinct from Arabs.

Their strategy mirrors that of Shiite Muslim parties in southern Iraq, which have stocked Iraqi army and police units with members of their own militias and have maintained a separate militia presence throughout Iraq's central and southern provinces. The militias now are illegal under Iraqi law but operate openly in many areas. Peshmerga leaders said in interviews that they expected the Shiites to create a semi-autonomous and then independent state in the south as they would do in the north.

The Bush administration - and Iraq's neighbors - oppose the nation's
fragmentation, fearing that it could lead to regional collapse. To keep Iraq
together, U.S. plans to withdraw significant numbers of American troops in 2006 will depend on turning U.S.-trained Kurdish and Shiite militiamen into a national army...

Next, read this article about the transfer of authority for security within a large sector of Iraq from the Americans to the Iraqis.  This Battalion is made up of Kurds.  If the above article is prescient, well, it'll be bad for the Arabs in Iraq:

SGT RACHEL BRUNE 101ST SUSTAINMENT BDE
27 DECEMBER 2005

MAKHMŪR, Iraq -- Against the backdrop of the second-largest granary in Iraq, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division Iraqi army assumed command and control of Iraqi battle space from coalition forces in a transfer of authority ceremony Dec. 27 here.

Under the command of Lt. Col. Hogar Salahaddin Abdul, the battalion is now responsible for the stability and security of a large swathe of the Tigris River Valley.

During the months leading to the transfer, 3rd Bn. conducted combined operations with Iraqi Police and units from Task Force Thunder, such as Battery C, 4th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment.

"This is truly a superb Iraqi army battalion," said Lt. Col. Scott Wuestner, 4-11th FA commander. He added: "[Hogar] truly wants to serve his country."

Lt. Col. Jemiel Dildar Dosky, 3rd Bn. executive officer, served as master of ceremonies for the event. After welcoming the distinguished guests, who included Duraid Kashmoula, governor of Nineveh Province, Maj. Gen. Jamal, 2nd Div. commander, and Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, Task Force Freedom commander, he paused for a moment of silence "for fallen comrades."

Imam Ibrahim Muslim, a local religious leader, read a selection from the Koran. His voice echoed across the vast parade field as the intonation rose and fell in a singing chant.

A Kurdish military brass band trumpeted Iraq's national anthem, then provided a marching cadence as Wuestner, Rodriguez and Hogar inspected the troops.

To symbolize the passing of authority from coalition to Iraqi forces, Wuestner solemnly passed the battalion colors to Hogar as a horde of Iraqi media commemorated the occasion.

"With professional leaders and a common goal [3rd Bn.] quickly formed a team ready for any mission," said Rodriguez in his speech. He spoke of the training and combined operations the battalion performed with Battery C and Military Transition Team-33.

"Before you stands today a cohesive unit ready to take over the battle space," said Rodriguez.

Although the battalion consists predominantly of Kurdish soldiers, the unit is able to work well with the local Arab leaders in the area of operations, according to Sgt. 1st Class James Ray, MTT-33 logistics trainer, from Jacksonville, Fla.

otThe team is currently stationed at the Makhmūr Iraqi army base, Forward Operation Base Crazy Horse, and has worked with the battalion to train the soldiers and provide guidance.

"These guys were pretty squared away when we came on board," said Ray. The team tried to push the point that in a counterinsurgency fight, the army must work closely with Iraqi Police and local leaders.

"They came together and work pretty well," said Ray.
"They're the ones developing and executing the plans," said Capt. Ronny A. Vargas, MTT-33 operations officer, from Glen Cove, N.Y. He added, in the local community, the Arab leaders respect Hogar and understand that he represents Iraq.

The battalion's logistics capabilities have greatly improved, and the unit's operation capabilities have expanded to include coordinating missions with coalition forces, Iraqi Police and American Special Forces, said Vargas. In the future, he hopes to see 3rd Bn. take on missions requiring the unit to deploy out of its area of operations.

The battalion is taking ownership of an area about 4,000 square kilometers, as well as FOB Crazy Horse, according to 1st Lt. Phil Kerber, Battery C executive officer, from Tahoe City, Calif. Battery C previously had command and control of the battle space 3rd Bn. will now be responsible for.

"My brothers of the 3rd Brigade, be unified," said Jamal, through an interpreter, in his speech during the ceremony. "Stick with the arms of the Iraqi army to protect and defend Iraq from the north to the south."

Jamal urged his soldiers to avoid ethnic discrimination, because "all soldiers are one people.

"We should work day and night to maintain stability and security for the Iraqi people," said Jamal.

In his speech, Wuestner congratulated Hogar on his work developing 3rd Bn. from its origin as a company in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in 2003. The 101st Airborne Division originally contracted the company to provide security in the Makhmūr region.

"[Hogar] truly represents what is right about Iraq and the Iraqi people," said Wuestner. If one spoke to local leaders about Hogar, they would agree he is fair, honest, trustworthy and treats everyone with respect.

"On behalf of my staff, I promise to continue providing security in the area of operations," said Hogar in his short speech.

The transfer should send a strong message to the American people that the coalition forces do not want to stay in occupation, but instead "just want to help build a strong Iraqi army," said Hogar.

"This is the first battalion in the north of Iraq to carry on its shoulders the responsibility for stability and security in the area of operations," said Hogar. The fruitful efforts of the people, soldiers and coalition forces should send a "strong message to terrorists."

Hogar graduated from military college in 1990, joining the Iraqi army as an infantry lieutenant. He joined the Kurdish peshmerga as a training instructor in 1993, then joined the Zawita Division in 2000 as battalion commander.

Hogar participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Mosul in 2003, then worked with the 101st Abn. Div. as a liaison officer at Q-West Base Complex.

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After the conclusion of the remarks, the band began to play as the troops passed in review. As each company marched past the reviewing party, the company commander saluted and the guidon bearer dipped the large, brightly-colored silk guidon in a salute.

After the conclusion of the ceremony, Rodriguez and other dignitaries attended lunch at the Makhmūr base.

Many of the coalition troops spoke admiringly of the the 3rd Bn. soldiers and their accomplishments.

"I just think this is one of the finest battalions out there," said Vargas. "This [unit] should be a model for the rest of Iraq."

Of course, you need to make up your own mind.  I think Tom Lasseter is reporting what his team has been told by Kurds.  Whatever you think of Tom Lasseter, he's not a liar and he's not heartless.

One thing to keep in mind is that we Americans have a history of cutting and running or abandoning countries 0r their oppressed peoples after promising aid - Cuba (Bay of Pigs), Viet Nam, Iraq (Kurds and Shia after 1991)...just to name a few.  Of course, Iraq's uprising in the early 90's that was not supported by us is probably the problem here.

I think that I'd be doing the same thing were I a Kurd - working for the best, preparing for the worst.  Especially, given the comments by Congressional leaders like Murtha and Pelosi, and Senators like Dick Durbin and Harry Reid.

In the end, if the Kurds did prepare for civil war, who could blame them?

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