Kurdish troops prepare for deployment in Baghdad
A Kurdish battalion is in preparation for deployment to Baghdad as part of the Iraqi government's security operation, in coordination with President Bush's troop surge strategy, to quell sectarian violence in the Iraqi capital.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Associated Press reports that the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 4th Divison has begun marching from its base in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah to western Baghdad. There, it will receive further training from US troops before deployment, said the brigade's commander, Brig. Gen. Anwar Golani.
It will not be the first time that the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 4th Division has served in volatile areas. It also spent seven months helping to fight Sunni insurgents in the towns of Balad and Duluiyah, some 45 miles north of Baghdad, Golani said, adding that 14 of his troops were killed and 55 were wounded while there. ...
Golani said many of his soldiers were formerly part of Kurdish militias known as peshmergas that fought Saddam Hussein's regime for decades, making them experienced fighters. He said they had been integrated into the Iraqi army.
"We did benefit a lot from our previous experience," Golani said. "We have experience in how to repulse attacks."
AP writes that the battalion and another Kurdish brigade, currently training in the northern city of Irbil, are expected to be part of neighborhood-to-neighborhood search operations targeting both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias like Moqtada al-Sadr's Madhi Army. The start date of those operations have not yet been announced.
Though the Kurds are "recognized as being among the better-trained fighters in Iraq," their deployment into the sectarian conflict in Baghdad is a tricky proposition, reports The Washington Post. While Sunni Muslim in religion, the Kurds are an ethnic group distinct from the Arabs that make up the Sunni and Shiite blocs in Iraq. The Kurdish troops do not speak Arabic, and their regional government, which flies the Kurdish flag, seeks independence from Iraq.
A former senior CIA operations officer who is familiar with Iraq said yesterday that sending the units into Baghdad "will not make many friends for the Kurds, depending on where they go." But, said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, "if you are going in to clear a majority-Sunni area, better to use Kurdish rather than Shia troops.... They are obviously better than Iraqi police and more professional."
The Nation reports that some Kurds still worry that getting Kurdish troops involved with Arab conflicts will only make matters worse. Salam al-Midi, a Kurd and former US military translator, said that the use of peshmerga in the city of Mosul, where Kurds and Arabs have long fought for political dominance, has only increased tensions there.
"They don't know the language, the Arabic language, it's hard. It's one of the major difficulties they will face," Midi said. "Second, they are Kurds. Comparing Kurds and Arabs is like comparing apples and oranges. They cannot work together. For sure, terrorist organizations are going to react, and their reactions are going to be bad. And at the same time the Kurdish side will want to take revenge on the Arabs, the Iraqi people."