Well boys and girls, looks like it’s just about that time. I mean, the proverbial gravy train had to get to the end of the line sometime, right? I’m talking about being a volunteer fighter in Kurdistan—an end of an era. Sorry if you’re late to the party, but we’re just about out of booze and house music. The word “era” in Kurdish in soroni, and means “here,” coincidentally. I think there are still plenty of opportunities to volunteer, just not to fight. There are plenty of refugee camps and NGOs that will take you on for help; hell, I had a buddy doing that for a while in between serving with Peshmerga units, as a matter of fact.
Of course, the Pesh will still take you, but good luck getting into combat; you’ll probably be hard-pressed. It can happen, but it’ll be luck and on a defensive position, very unlikely to be assaulting a Daesh village. With the reclamation of Sinjar late last year, there is very little territory left that Iraqi Kurdistan wants other than areas near Mosul and possibly Hawija. Of course, there are other opportunities with the Peshmerga: in training fields if you have the qualifications, personal security details for generals, and doing propaganda for them.
Most of the volunteer groups are kept away from hotspots or pulled back from combat at this stage as well. Being part of a group makes you high profile and easier to spot by both the media and coalition forces. The coalition and Peshmerga have a habit of pulling Western volunteers back from activities they deem too dangerous. The coalition doesn’t want a fuck-up, and the Pesh don’t want a Western casualty on their hands. This was confirmed to me by a close friend coming out of the YPG in Rojava recently, as well. The same guy told me two volunteers were forcibly removed from the YPG and Rojava by Western military advisors for attempting to train YPG soldiers.
Westerners are being pulled back to low-risk areas by their tabors (battalions) under the direction of military advisors in the area. More so than before, volunteers are filling guard positions in rear outposts, far from enemy positions. Of course there will always be exceptions to the rule, and spontaneous attacks from the enemy do occur.
Most of the volunteers I know have gone home at this point, most on to bigger and better things, ending this chapter of their lives. I think I’ll hang around and help clean up for a while. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky few who will get to scrap with the enemy one more time.
Featured image courtesy of The Daily Beast