Peshmerga are the key to defeating ISISL in Iraq; By Hamish de Bretton Gordon.
The Iraqi Kurd Peshmerga forces have been battling forces of evil almost continuously for the last 30 years. Saddam Hussein’s Anfal Campaign in 1988 was attempted genocide, synonymous with this was the mass chemical attack on Halabja 16 Mar 1988 which killed over 12000 Kurds.
The Peshmerga took to the hills and waged a continuous battle until the First Gulf War when the Coalition,, including the British army, and myself as a young tank commander, removed the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. Shortly after this the UK Prime Minister John Major organised the No Fly Zone in N Iraq which prevented Saddam from bombing Kurdish villages into submission and further genocide. It is slightly beyond me as to why the international community is not insisting on a similar No Fly Zone is Syria which would have, and could in future, save thousands of lives in Syria;.
Yet again it is the Peshmerga leading the fight in Iraq today. Late last year when ISIL broke out of Mosul to assault between Kirkuk to Erbil it was the Peshmerga, with help from Coalition air power, which led to a major strategic defeat for ISIL in N Iraq and has pushed them [ISIL] almost all the way back to Mosul. In the last 4 months ISIL have been defeated in Ramadi and Tikrit. This leaves Iraq’s second city, Mosul, the only significant area in Iraq left in ISIL hands. If they lose Mosul they lose Iraq and nothing could be more important to their eventual defeat.
I was on the frontline with the Peshmerga 10 days ago for 2 days, between Mahkmor and Erbil, in places just 20 kms from Mosul. Commanders on the ground are gunning for the battle for the city, but lack of prepardensss and kit shortages in the Iraqi army is delaying an advance.
It is important to understand that with Kirkuk back in their hands, the Iraqi Kurds believe they inhabit and run what they understand to be Iraqi Kurdistan. Mosul is a predominantly Arab Sunni city of little strategic significance to the Kurds. It is essential to understand that the Peshmerga are in effect our ‘Boots on the Ground’ for the assault on Mosul. The British Army, at the moment the 1st battalion the Rifles, are training the Peshmerga. In the opinion of Col Srud Bazarni, Chief of Staff in the Black Tiger’s unit in the Peshmerga they are doing a fantastic job. However, with the Chilcott report on the Iraq War some months away, it is unlikely UK politicians would vote for an extension of support becoming actual ‘Boots on the Ground’.
Therefore, it is essential we give the Peshmerga and the Kurdistan Government every bit of support we can, from Air power, to training, to ammunition and equipment. There are rumours that some of this might be lacking, and in this case any shortfall must be remedied as soon as possible.
My time on the frontline with the Black Tigers was a huge privilege. I see a fighting force who have already broken the psychological cloak of invincibility which ISIL have perpetuated so successfully in Syria and the rest of Iraq. I see a force absolutely up for the ‘generational’ battle with ISIL in Mosul shortly. But I also see a force who have more than pulled their weight in the fight against tyranny in this region for the last 30 years, who we, the UK, US etc are absolutely relying on for their fighting spirit to continue in order to comprehensively defeat ISIL. If they decide not to continue to Mosul we are going to have to put British boots on the ground, in numbers, to defeat ISIL.
We must strain ‘every nerve and sinew’ to support the Peshmerga.
Adapted from an article originally at www.telegraph.co.uk