Reuters is reporting that the United States has quietly moved forces into Iraqi Kurdistan to train up to 5,000 Kurds in prepartion for an invasion. Regular readers might remember that I posted about this back in October.
There are two things interesting about this. One, Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the southern and eastern part of Kurdish country, said that the Kurds had finally received security guarantees from the United States in case of an attack by Saddam’s forces. This is a good thing. One of my major objections to this adventure has been America’s reluctance to stand by the Kurds, which it has failed several times in the past (1970s, 1980s and twice in 1991 and 1995.) The Kurds are working at building a nascent democracy in their territory, and while it’s hardly perfect and prone to the Great Man theory of government that so plagues the region, they’re trying. And the United States should support that effort. The security guarantee is a good first step. Next, the United States should sign on to the proposed constitution for a Federal Republic of Iraq. It’s certainly not a perfect document, but again, they’re trying.
Secondly, if the United States is actively training Kurds, that obviously means the Kurds have signed on to an invasion, which they had not when I was there. Deputy Prime Minister (KDP) Sami Abdul Rahman told me that the Kurds would not — could not — stand in the way of American forces should an invasion come, but there would be no active help without the security guarantees. With the training and the guarantees, the Kurds have secured for themselves a place at the table when it comes time to govern Iraq, apres Saddam
Aside: The Kurdish special forces, of which it seemed the KDP had the most, are trained by Iraqi generals who defected to Kurdish country. They brought with them their training from the Iraqi army, which inherited British SAS training. Also, there were a number of Kurdish peshmergas who wore American GI uniforms. When I asked where they came from, they just smiled and said, “smugglers and traders.” I’ll bet.