This is our war and the KRG must give top priority to defence strategy

By Arian Mufid:

Kurdish peshmarga forces defending Kirkuk

Kurdish peshmarga forces defending Kirkuk

The opening weeks of 2015 have involved heavy bloodshed and martyrdom for Kurds in the south of Kurdistan. While in west Kurdistan ISIS (Daesh) forces were forced to retreat from Kobani, in the southern, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), areas ISIS has been on an almost continual offensive on several fronts, to an extent that has surprised observers who are wondering how this group can have such ferocious power. ISIS represents the sum of all evils. At the moment only Kurdish forces can fight ISIS on the ground: that is the reality in both southern and western Kurdistan. However, while the morale and will to resist among KRG peshmarga forces is very high, it is not in itself quite enough to vanquish the most barbaric group in the world.

In mid-January, ISIS attacked the KRG border areas of Guir and Maxmur, signalling once again that they are waging a brutal war against the Kurds as a nation and their de facto KRG state. On 30th January, ISIS made a serious effort to seize control of the city of Kirkuk. It failed, thousands of ISIS were killed and about 400 were taken prisoner. But our Peshmarga forces have also lost hundreds of soldiers in these two attacks and hundreds more have been injured. This loss of peshmargas, in just two weeks, is comparable to the loss of YPG/YPJ lives during several months of the siege of Kobani. Notably the defence minister of Kobani, Mr Ismat, has said that, “We have been fighting ISIS for the last three years and we don’t have a single prisoner of the YPG in the hands of Daesh”.

Military observers in south Kurdistan have drawn two conclusions. First, we are still not prepared for the kind of war that is being waged by ISIS.  Second, our forces are not yet fully up to that challenge for political and military reasons. Despite the latest advance of KRG forces, which have recaptured a lot of land from ISIS, there are weaknesses in the KRG defence strategy that need to be addressed to reduce the risk of further heavy losses in the inevitable future ISIS attacks.

1. Our brave Peshmarga forces remain dominated by corrupt elements of the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) leaderships, as I have previously explained. Kurds need a unified national force, free from oligarchic influence.

2. There are still many commanders with guerrilla warfare skills from 20 or more years ago, while a constant alertness and different set of skills are required today to deal with ISIS’s lightning offensives, waged with fleets of tanks and heavy artillery. The KRG’s top priority should be to intensify the training of our armed forces and make the maximum use of international experts in waging this type of war.

3. Churchill recognised the threat that Nazism posed to civilization and, following Britain’s heavy defeat at Dunkirk, he inspired his countrymen to fight on to victory. Our leaders need to tell the people clearly that ISIS is waging a war to destabilise and destroy the KRG. ISIS has been mainly supported by Turkey during the period since KRG President Masud Barzani ordered the Kurdistan parliament to prepare to hold a referendum on independence. ISIS is also supported by Arab chauvinism which seeks to halt the development of Kurdish nationalism. The KRG leaders should embrace the spirit of Churchill and convey without hesitation the message that this is our war now that ISIS has come to destroy the Kurdish nation.

It is a grotesque war, waged by a terrorist army/state that has received so much support from other states, some of whom now confront the monster they helped create. But for Kurds, there is no choice. ISIS are the dark forces of criminals and rapists, while the Peshmargas are the forces of modernity and liberation.

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