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Home > Kurds > Peshmerga

The Peshmerga - Kurdish mountain fighters and militia group members - have seen conflict over the last several decades against Iraq, Iran, and Turkish military forces. They have developed a reputation as superb fighters defending their homeland in northeastern Iraq.

Not the Fighters of Old? The fighting skills and prowess of the Kurds have likely diminished in the past decade. While the Sunni and Shia population fought each other the Kurds managed to stay out of the conflict from 2003 to 2011. However, recent attacks by the fighters of the Islamic State in mid-2014 reveals that the Peshmerga is not the force it used to be. The Peshmerga were easily routed in the initial battles with the jihadists.

Internal Divisions. The Kurds are handicapped with internal divisions within its political and military structure. The two main political parties of Kurdistan have a long history of conflict to include one or two periods of civil war.

Loss of Veteran Fighters. With the reconstruction and development of Kurdistan, beginning in 2003 after the U.S. invaded, experienced members of the Peshmerga transitioned out of the fighting formations and into the economic center. While the Kurds still fielded their militias they were composed of young inexperienced fighters.

Limited Training. The current Peshmerga militia has no formalized training program; having relied on the wartime experience of past conflicts for its training. However, several years of 'peace' eroded the combat experience of the Peshmerga.

Outdated and Insufficient Equipment. The Peshmerga forces were outgunned in the initial confrontations with the ISIL forces. The ISIL forces, using recently captured heavy weaponry and armored vehicles, were able to out fight the Peshmerga.

Divided Along Party Lines. The Peshmerga forces are divided along party or political lines; each of the two major political parties (Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) retaining its own militia force. This handicaps the command and control (C2) of the Peshmerga forces responding to attacks (by ISIL) or coordinating offensive actions.

Ministry of Peshmerga. Current plans (September 2014) include the establishment of the Ministry of Peshmerga to improve cooperation,  coordination, and training among the various Peshmerga militias. Currently (late 2014) the ministry controls about 50,000 fighters while each of the two main political parties control approximately 60,000 fighters.

Websites with Info on the Peshmerga

Peshmerga - by Wikipedia

News Stories on Peshmerga in Iraq

September 1, 2014. "Tarnishing a Reputation as Storied Warriors". The New York Times. The Peshmerga enjoyed a reputation as fierce mountain fighters; however, they were easily routed in the initial battles with ISIL. This article examines the background issues with the Peshmerga failure.

August 28, 2014. "Chaos in Iraq: Are the Kurds Truly Set to Win?" By Winston Harris posted on Small Wars Journal.

August 19, 2014. "Young Kurdish fighters learn on the job, and on the front line". Fox News. The new Peshmerga is not as experienced as the Peshmerga from 10 or 20 years ago. The new Soldiers require better equipment and more training.

August 11, 2014. "Iraq: Understanding the ISIS Offensive Against the Kurds". By Kenneth M. Pollack, Brookings Institute.

August 10, 2014. "How Do We Protect the Kurds? Like We did in 1991". Cicero Magazine. Chris Miller says, compared to Operation Provide Comfort, helping out this time should be easy.

July 24, 2014. "Iraq's Kurds want U.S. help to hold off Islamic State extremists". The Washington Post. Iraqi government is withholding funds from Kurds.

June 26, 2014. "Iraqi Kurdistan's New Security Challenges". The Jamestown Foundation.

June 17, 2014. "Iraq conflict: Kurds will not help retake Mosul". BBC News.



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