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Monday, October 27, 2014

Updates From The Ground War In Iraq

Links: A.  Iraqi Troops Retake Three Tents And A Camel Repair Shop
           B.  Women Warriors Not New To Kurdistan

I woke up late this morning and missed Mass.  When I finally got my wits about me I remembered that the Dallas Cowboys game against the Washington Foreskins was on Monday night, so I was a bit grumpy when I turned on the computer and saw the headline, "Iraqi Troops Retake Town". Allegedly the Iraqi Army already controls most of Ramadi, so if the Iraqi Army could dislodge the Islamic State (IS) from Fallujah, it would clearly disrupt the IS efforts to methodically destabilize Baghdad.  Unfortunately, the town that was retaken was not Fallujah, but Jurf al-Sakhar, a Sunni town with roughly 80,000 inhabitants.
For most folks, Jurf al-Sakhar is just another hard-to-pronounce Iraqi village in the middle of nothing.  As a former CIA Case Officer, I recall Jurf al-Sakhar as being home to Saddam Hussein's most important biological weapons research facility.  The town is part of a ribbon of Sunni communities that hug the Euphrates and are buffered to the east and west by Shia villages.  It is strategically located, with Karbala to the west and Hillah to the south.  I made light of the fact that Jurf al-Sakhar is unfamiliar to most people reading this post, but in reality the retaking of Jurf al-Sakhar disrupts any attempt by the IS to encircle Baghdad.  All in all, the deliverance of Jurf al-Sakhar from the IS is good news.  What would truly justify a celebration would be the removal of all IS operatives from Ramadi, and the retaking of Fallujah.  If the Iraqi Army could accomplish these two goals, then my readers would get a respite from daily postings about Baghdad.

I do not purposely neglect discussing the Iraqi northern front.  The truth is, I have some trouble locating dependable reporting from this area.  The Iraqi Army is active not only in and around Tikrit, but also in Baiji, Baqubah, and Kirkuk.
It can be difficult determining exactly where the Iraqi Army leaves off the front line and the Kurdish forces pick it up.  The Iraqi Army and the various Kurdish military elements recognize the need to work together against a common enemy, in this case the IS.  Interestingly enough, I haven't seen much information online regarding the actual authority that Kurdish leaders bequeath to the Peshmerga.  The Peshmerga is the largest, best equipped, best trained, and most respected of all the various military forces that have represented Kurdish interests.  I spent some time with the Peshmerga in 2003, and as I see it, they are the true representative Army of the Kurdish people.  No doubt other groups representing particular political interests will make themselves useful in the war against the IS (these include PUK, PDK, etc. who will always have their own large cadre of bodyguards). But at the end of the day, there is only one Peshmerga.  If it were possible to triple the number of Peshmerga fighters, the IS would be swept away in a month or so.  I have tremendous confidence in these Kurdish soldiers because I have watched them in action both nearby and from afar.  The Peshmerga has never been accused of "too much discipline" during down-time, and the  subject of hygiene seems to escape Peshmerga training programs, but these guys and gals know how to fight.  When the bullets start to fly, the Peshmerga seems to maneuver as one unit with one mind.  They are just as effective in small units as they are in groups of twenty or fifty, and they can transport an amazing amount of heavy weaponry over great distances in no time at all.  In reality, I believe that the IS has stolen its tactics from the Peshmerga.  When I worked with the Peshmerga, there was no consistency to the weaponry.  Some preferred to carry the M16, and others (most) were comfortable with the ubiquitous AK-47.  Any more commentary regarding the Peshmerga will require me to share parts of my book.  Suffice to say that I have great faith in the Peshmerga and only wish we had more.  The many times that I observed Peshmerga during down time made me realize that the cohesiveness that is so apparent during battle, seems to melt away during personal time. Each Peshmerga is responsible for their own personal issues such as health, hygiene, entertainment, and comfort.  In fact, the only time I saw an administrative angle was during meals (not always) and during issues related to ammunition and supply.

Link B is an important article for anyone who requires an accurate vision of the ground war in Syria and Iraq.  Women have always been militarily active in Kurdish history.  The only militaries that use women as effectively as the Peshmerga are the Israelis and the United States, of course.  Kurdish women fighters carry their own equipment and show the same level of personal independence that is such a big part of the Peshmerga way.  The Iraqi Army has a respectable number of female troops, and it is my understanding that they have shown promise on the battlefield.  Any current female troops in the Iraqi Army are part of the new structure implemented after the fall of Saddam Hussein.  This structure is very focused on military instruction and weapons training, so it shouldn't be surprising that so many female troops have achieved success early in their careers.  But at the end of the day, all soldiers must fight and fight well to be successful.  In warfare, the soldier who is unsuccessful at his or her job, never leaves the battlefield.  The IS has made a bit of a public show over the number of female recruits that have arrived from the United States and Europe.  Its one thing to display photos and videos on social media of American and European females sporting the latest in Burkha-wear and waving little Islamic State flags for the camera.  Here in Mookie World we are all about the truth, and I want to hear from these same young ladies a month after their arrival in camp.  I understand that the IS has a few (formerly English) female fighters who have taken to the life of being an Islamic Warrior.  My question is, what would The Prophet say?  Isn't "soldiering" an occupation reserved for men in the world of the "Caliphate"? 

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