By: Scott Taylor
It is a terrible human trait to not learn from past mistakes, but it is an even worse habit to claim false success in order to embark on yet more doomed endeavours.
A case in point is the recent clamour from the Colonel Blimp tub-thumpers to send in more Canadian trainers to northern Iraq because that is something we were successful at in Afghanistan. One only needs to keep abreast of the news to know that the Afghan army trained and equipped by NATO is hopelessly demoralized and completely ineffective in combating a resurgent Taliban.
Despite Canadian soldiers’ best efforts to teach these Afghans superior combat skills, there is simply no way to motivate them into sacrificing their lives for the corrupt regime that the West installed in Kabul.
With the NATO-U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan almost complete, the Taliban have been steadily increasing their gains against the government security forces that we so successfully trained up until 2014. In an ironic twist of fate, the major obstacle to the Taliban seizing complete control over Afghanistan has been the emergence of Daesh in that war-torn country.
That’s right folks, the only thing preventing the evil-doing Taliban from a quick victory is the amount of troops and resources they have deployed to combat even worse evil-doers. Some success.
Now the warmongers want Canadian soldiers to train Iraqi security forces so they might defeat Daesh. Sounds simple, and since we know that Daesh is pure evil, how could we not lend a hand?
Well, for starters, Iraq is no longer a singular entity. Our soldiers are deployed on a training mission in Kurdistan. To cloud the issue and to simplify things, our politicians and media refer to this as the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The Kurds are far more honest about things and at the border checkpoint, the sign says welcome to Kurdistan.
Erbil is the capital of Kurdistan, and everywhere you go they fly the red, green and white stripes with a sunburst centre that is the flag of Kurdistan. In photographs, you will notice this same flag on the uniforms of the Kurdish peshmerga militia, and in some cases it has been displayed alongside the Maple Leaf on the sleeves of our Canadian trainers.
In the spring of 2014, when Daesh was overrunning Iraqi security forces in the Sunni Triangle, the Kurdish peshmerga took advantage of the chaos to launch their own offensive against the Iraqi army. With little fanfare, the Kurds seized the oilfields of Kirkuk, which contain about 40 per cent of Iraq’s total oil output. For the record, there is virtually no oil in the Sunni Triangle, now under Daesh control, as the remaining oil hub is in the Shiite-dominated region around Basra.
With the Kirkuk windfall, Kurdistan has the economic engine to support complete independence. This is what the peshmerga fighters are fighting for, not a unified democratic Iraq.
Canadian politicians clearly understand this deep division. That is why when former prime minister Stephen Harper and, more recently, newly appointed Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited the region, they paid their respects to both the Kurdish leaders and the impotent Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad.
With the U.S.-trained-and-equipped Iraqi army in tatters after its quick defeat at the hands of Daesh in 2014, the Baghdad government had to call up the Shiite militia to defend the capital. Those militias are largely supported and mentored by Iranian army trainers. Given Canada’s current relations with Iran, bolstering those anti-Daesh fighters is not an option.
Which leads us back to Kurdistan. If Canada wants to pour in military aid and expertise to bolster the Kurds, then we need to be honest and open about the creation of an independent state. This will not be easy, of course, because an independent Kurdistan is strongly opposed by neighbouring countries, including Turkey, a key NATO ally.
For several months, Turkish security forces have been waging a renewed counterinsurgency against Kurdish separatist guerrillas in eastern Turkey. The Kurdish Workers Party — known as the PKK and listed as a terrorist organization by the united States, the European Union and Canada — has long used Kurdistan as a safe haven from which to launch cross-border attacks into Turkey.
As we should have learned from our decade-long failure in Afghanistan, we can train individuals to fire weapons, but we cannot control their will as to what they will fight for. We want to teach the Kurds to fight Daesh; the Kurds want weapons and munitions to create Kurdistan, and that includes chunks of Turkey, Syria and Iran.
For 2016, let’s start admitting our failures and thereby begin learning from them.