Leadership: Kurds Improvise

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October 29, 2006: While the Kurds of northern Iraq have been independent of the Iraqi government since 1992, they have not yet created a regular army. What they do have is a light infantry force, the Peshmerga. These troops have received some military training, from their own, and American, trainers. The Pershmerga can, at the moment, keep the Arab Iraqis out, but the organization is more a security force and jobs program, than an army.

Although officially a united force, the Kurdish gunmen are split into two main groups, and many smaller clan and party organizations. Each of these smaller entities can lay claim to "their boys (and girls)." The Peshmerga is co-ed, with about ten percent of the 80,000 on the payroll being women. The pay isn't great, but it helps assure the loyalty of active duty fighters to their paymaster (usually a tribal leader or politician.)

While the Kurdish troops are, on average, more reliable and effective than their Iraqi Arab counterparts, their leadership is still more traditional than professional. The Kurds have many of the same leadership problems that their Arab brothers to the south have. There's nepotism, corruption and a lot of officials who are more concerned with getting rich, than with getting their job done right.

The Kurds know that they will more likely achieve their goals (staying autonomous, getting control of the northern oil fields and the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk) through negotiation, rather than armed force. But the average Kurd is getting tired of the corruption and inefficiency of their leaders, despite the need for unity in the face of threats from Arabs and Turks.

 


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