U.S. officials: No plans to use Kurds in battle
April 1, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — The United States has no plans to militarily train and use Iraqi Kurdish forces in the fight to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, and U.S. forces in the north now serve to keep the peace between two historic rivals, military officials said.
The parachuting last week of the 173rd Airborne Brigade into Kurdish-ruled areas of northern Iraq, marks, in part, the seventh “operational objective” achieved thus far in the campaign named Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition commander Gen. Tommy R. Franks said during a Sunday news briefing from Qatar.
“The coalition has, in fact, introduced a very capable ground force into northern Iraq. These forces, along with large numbers of special operations troops, have \[prevented\] the rekindling of historic feuding which we’ve seen in years past between the Turks and the Kurds, and these forces do in fact represent a serious northern threat to regime forces,” Franks said.
There are no plans for a repeat of efforts the United States undertook more than a year ago in Afghanistan, in which U.S. special forces were married with Northern Alliance troops, and trained, equipped and used the local forces to fight against the Taliban, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. David Lapan said.
For the conflict in Iraq, initial reports indicated the United States planned to move roughly 60,000 troops into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq from neighboring Turkey. But the Turkish government denied U.S. requests to have soldiers on the ground — a decision that delayed the introduction of the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas.
“There is no intent at all use the Kurds as an offensive force,” said a U.S. military official familiar with the war plans to oust the Iraqi dictator.
The reason: It would upset the already delicate U.S.-Turkish alliance, said the official, who asked not to be named.
“The plan is flexible enough to work the 4th ID in the north,” the official said. “I can’t talk about future operations, but I can tell you there are certain plans for forces in the north, it’s just the Kurds will not be part of that.”
Turkey did grant coalition forces flyover rights, and, shortly thereafter, the United States dropped 1,000 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The New York Times reported that a combination of U.S. special forces and Kurdish military forces are conducting sweeps through the remote mountain valley of Beyara in northeastern Iraq to capture villages from radical Islamic Kurds, the Ansar al-Islam, said to be linked to the al-Qaida and toppled Taliban regime who fled from Afghanistan.
Coalition forces also formed working relationships with Iraqis in central Iraq to topple the regime, Franks said.
“The death squads that operate — the squads of gangs, regime gangs that operate in that city, have come under fire. The Iraqis in and around An Nasiriyah are helping us once again, as we speak, by providing records on Baath Party officials and members of the regime attempting to operate in and around An Nasiriyah,” Franks said, referencing Iraq’s ruling party.
“Similarly, we see from day to day Iraqis coming to our forces, linking up with free Iraqi forces, discussing the past, and wanting to discuss their future.”