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Note: The Peshmerga is the name given to the military of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
In the past 10 or so days the Peshmerga have suffered a long series of major defeats.

This has been a shock for many because for many years the Peshmerga have enjoyed an almost legendary reputation as being one of the the hardest and most effective forces in the world.

The polite explanations for this are:

- They spread themselves very thinly when they moved into areas in northern Iraq after the Iraqi military abandoned them.

- They didn't take recent developments seriously enough.

- They are not good at warfare in open desert areas.

- They suffered from bad planning and logistics.

There have also been some attempts by the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to justify the Peshmerga's recent defeats. They have put forward that:

- The Peshmerga face IS on a front 1,000 km long,

- IS has heavy weapons,

- The Peshmerga don't have enough heavy weapons, and

- The Iraqi government doesn't supply the Peshmerga with weapons.

However, in the past few days some have begun to question these justifications.

- The Peshmerga face IS on a front 1,000 km long.

IS faces the Peshmerga and the Iraqi military on a much longer front.

- IS has heavy weapons.

So do the Peshmerga.

- The Peshmerga don't have enough heavy weapons.

The Peshmerga have more heavy weapons than IS does. There are at least ten times more Peshmerga soldiers than IS fighters. And what happened to the Peshmerga that could block and even defeat the army of Saddam without any heavy weapons?

- The Iraqi government doesn't supply the Peshmerga with weapons.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) insists that the Peshmerga are completely separate from and independent of the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. The KRG can't have it both ways, either the Pesmerga are completely separate and independent or they aren't.

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Commentary Magazine has an interesting article related to the Peshmerga:

Explain Failures or Abandon Training Missions
Michael Rubin


From the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom until September 2012, the United States spent approximately $25 billion to train the Iraqi army. Some of the most prominent (and press hungry) American generals took the job and spoke of their success. Martin Dempsey, currently chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq between 2005 and 2007. Bush administration officials often exaggerated the numbers of competent trained forces (full disclosure: I served briefly in the Bush administration’s Pentagon but not in a capacity that involved troop training) and generals did not clarify. Part of the reason for this, it seems, is that some generals have either become too sensitive to political winds thereby corrupting their willingness to assess honestly, or that they self-censor in order to make themselves look more successful. In a way, it’s a return to the U.S. Army’s Cold War-era “zero defects” policy which at times contributed to inaccurately positive assessments.

American special forces trained the Kurdish peshmerga as well. Unlike with the Iraqi or Afghan armies, the peshmerga’s recent failures cannot be written off as the result of ethnic or sectarian discord within the ranks. Perhaps the problem here is hagiography: ...

So too does corruption as well as nepotism. For Kurdish President Masud Barzani’s son Mansour, how nice it must be to have become a general in your 30s and command the region’s Special Forces. When nepotism trumps competence and experience, any training is a waste. ...

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Note: There are actually two rival Peshmergas; the KDP Peshmerga is in the northern half of Iraqi Kurdistan and the PUK Peshmerga is in the southern half of Iraqi Kurdistan.

It is the KDP Peshmerga who have been suffering most, maybe all, of these defeats.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    The world is bad enough as it is, you have no right to make it any worse.
    Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

    by InAntalya on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 11:11:43 AM PDT

  •  So this is just a ploy to get US weapons? (3+ / 0-)

    Maybe recognition of independent Kurdistan?
    Son of Curveball?

    Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.

    •  Or it could be that the leadership of (5+ / 0-)

      Iraqi Kurdistan needs to evolve/improve,

      or it could be that the Peshmerga have grown soft and can't live up to the legend.

      But the KRG would love to get more weapons, for free of course, from the US and EU. Boys need their toys.

      The world is bad enough as it is, you have no right to make it any worse.
      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 11:42:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Rubin (7+ / 0-)

    Rubin leaves out some points:

    1) The US generals correctly feared retaliation from GWBush and the rest of his cabinet if they told truths as opposed to RW talking points.  

    2)  The Bush administration itself was ofttimes guilty of partisan person picking.  I think the best example was Great Job Brownie but there was another reported by Woodward in his books on the Iraq War:  they wanted Liz Cheney to head American reconstruction efforts but decided (I Laughed at this)  that it was too dangerous.  She might get killed.

    This is according to Woodward but I wish some interviewer would ask Liz so we'd have yet another sad/funny example of RW nepotism/arrogance/incompetence.


    “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects.” ― Will Rogers

    by MugWumpBlues on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 12:43:42 PM PDT

  •  And there's also a neutral explanation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, oldpotsmuggler, ranger995

    If what I've read & what I remember is correct (which has been about their reputation over the previous decades, not since Bush/Cheney got involved), the Peshmerga have mostly preformed small unit actions. Ambushes, attacks on outposts & convoys, that sort of hit & run activity that require less than 100 men. Maybe even groups as small as 15-20 men. So we're talking platoon & company size actions.

    Fighting the IS requires much larger groups of men than platoons & companies; we're talking hundreds if not thousands of men -- battalion & regiment sized units. These have their own issues: not only co-ordination (which is the most obvious one), but also logistical & movement ones. It's one thing to gather a few dozen men to attack the enemy a day or two away from their homes, but a far different one to organize a few hundred & take them a few hundred miles -- even if the mission is to go to a given place, dig in, then spend an afternoon mowing down human waves of shock troops eager for martyrdom.

    This explanation doesn't exclude any other ones offered. US advisors have tried to train lots of groups of armed men into professional soldiers, but more often than not this has failed to create a fighting force.

    •  Or maybe the US just 'trained' the tactics (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gjohnsit, jadt65

      that the Peshmerga had used successful for a long time out of them.

      Take a great guitar player, take away his guitar, and give him a piano.

      Sure, that'll work.

      The world is bad enough as it is, you have no right to make it any worse.
      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 01:15:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I could tell you what it was like trying to train (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      InAntalya, MugWumpBlues

      the ANA. They were brave and capable on the squad and sometimes platoon level, but completely inept at anything bigger. Also, they thought logistics were magic and the US military made bullets and food appear out of thin air.

      "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

      by ranger995 on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 08:11:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  About logistics... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...I read a book about Bravo Two Zero, the SAS recon in Iraq that was captured. Reading it, I got the impression that the US military, at least from the POV of the British soldiers, is positively overflowing with treats and snacks.

        When a British soldier received a gift/ care package from home, he has to share it with his squad mates. He gets first dibs, of course.

        Each soldier has his own "racer spoon"; when a soldier received a cup of pudding, for example, he has the right to make the first spoon of a spoonful of pudding. That's why a racer spoon is so important; it has to be as big as possible to get as much pudding as possible, while not being too big that it can't fit in most pudding cups and/ or causing your mates to complain you left them nothing.

        When the soldier visited a US base, there were so many treats and snacks and care packages that they can simply pick and choose whatever they wanted.

        "No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks” --Mary Shelley

        by Alhambra on Mon Aug 11, 2014 at 03:03:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  IS did get about 3 divisions worth (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, JesseCW

    of heavy weapons the Iraq army abandoned, though.


    Two American aid flights have also made it to the mountain, where they have dropped off more than 36,000 meals and 7,000 gallons of drinking water to help the refugees.

    However, Iraqi officials said that much of the US aid had been “useless” because it was dropped from 15,000ft without parachutes and exploded oin impact.

  •  You should give more info on the two Peshmerga (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, JesseCW

    groups, KDP and PUK. Are there reasons why one is more successful than the other? What is the background behind their competitiveness? Are the KDP not as well trained and equipped as the PUK?

    "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

    by ranger995 on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 08:17:05 PM PDT

    •  I want to and will when I have time. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think the biggest difference is the styles, personalities of the two leaderships

      The world is bad enough as it is, you have no right to make it any worse.
      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 09:06:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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