In the long battle against ISIS, one unlikely group helped turn the tides of the battle- the Kurdish people. the Kurds speak a Western Iranian language and live in a region that encompasses the northwestern part of Iran, the northern part of Iraq, northeastern Syria, and eastern Turkey.
The Kurds have long been a stateless people and as a result saw the fight against ISIS as an opportunity to fight for increased autonomy. The Kurds reside in a semi-autonomous state within Iraq which enjoys its own constitutional privileges. However many Kurds are looking for independence especially in the wake of all of the recent conflicts, and their efforts during the war on ISIS.
In 2014 the Iraqi military had retreated from the Kirkuk region, and the coalition forces relied on Kurdish forces to help bolster the assault. According to General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in a recent interview with PBS, Kurdish fighters “are the most effective force we have right now and a force we need to go in Raqqa. They also have never lost a battle.”
The main forces of the Kurdish army are the Peshmerga which in Kurdish means “those who confront death”. Constitutionally, the Iraqi army is not allowed to enter Kurdistan province so in these areas the Peshmerga and related forces were critical to the fight against ISIS.
It seemed that this was the opportunity that many Kurds were looking for to form an identity after proving themselves in battle.
However early this week, the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces clashed which led to the seizure of oil producing sites in the Kirkuk region, and the retreat of the Peshmerga forces.
Many Kurds were disapointed of the result, and in an interview in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, many expressed their displeasure.
“I cannot express my sorrow and my displeasure. But the question is, why did the Peshmerga forces withdraw? Why they did not they tell us earlier and we lived in a strong feeling that there was someone defending us?” Abu Mahmoud, 55, asked.
“I did not expect the effort of many years lost in 40 minutes,” he added.
The action by the Iraqi government was prompted by a recent referendum to secede from the nation of Iraq and there are also rumors of infighting among Kurdish political factions.
With the fight against ISIS slowly turning the tide, both the Iraqi forces and Kurdish government still have a long road ahead before reaching an agreement.