War Special: Kurds to play NA in Iraq
By Julius Strauss
HALABJA: Kurdish forces are to be used to open a northern front in the war in Iraq, Kurdish officials said.
The announcement came as coalition forces attacked positions in northern Iraq held by radicals linked to Al Qaeda.
Since the war began the northern front lines have seen only occasional volleys of machinegun and mortar fire.
The northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul were bombed at the weekend but commanders of the Kurdish Peshmerga guerillas say only light damage was inflicted.
Now Kurdish officials have said the coalition is preparing a northern front to try to split Iraqi forces and ease the pressure in the south.
Washington originally planned to deploy 62,000 troops in the Kurdish areas of Iraq but the Turkish parliament refused to grant the US army permission to deploy across its border. The lightly armed Peshmerga forces, estimated at 60,000, would be used in a role similar to that of the Northern Alliance in the Afghan campaign.
It is assumed they will be led by US and possibly British special forces able to call down aerial bombardments on Iraqi troops.
Hoshyar Zebari, external relations director of the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of two administrations running Iraqi Kurdistan, said: “The northern front will soon be opened. We’re working very closely with the Americans.”
He also hinted that the Peshmerga would be used in an attack on Mosul and Kirkuk, both of which have large Kurdish populations, even though such a move is certain to anger Ankara.
Turkey has said that, if the Kurds march on oil-rich Kirkuk, it will invade northern Iraq to protect its own regional interests. The fact that America may be willing to trigger such a confrontation indicates the depths of Washington’s anger with Turkey.
An official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the east of the Kurdish enclave, said Sunday the plan for a US-Kurdish operation was not yet official “but there is an agreement. The Iraqis up here are not as strong as they are in the south and together we would be very effective,” he said.
“Without Kurdish and Shia support the Americans will find it very difficult to win quickly against Saddam. They need uprisings if this war is to be over soon.” Witnesses said an American military plane arrived early on Sunday in a small airport outside Sulaymaniya, one of the Kurdish regional capitals.
The airstrip, which has recently been improved, has been cordoned off for weeks and is reported to be large enough to take the largest US transport planes. —LDT