Since military action began in Iraq in 2003, the Iraqi region of Kurdistan has managed, for the most part, to escape the sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq for nearly ten years. The relative peace and calm came to an abrupt end earlier this month as a series of car bombings struck the Kurdish Capital of Erbil, killing 6 people, wounding 84 (including 42 security and police officers), and sparking gunfights in the streets of the city. The attack was launched by jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda fighting in Syria with bases in Nineveh province that border Iraqi Kurdistan.

In early August, President Masoud Barzani of Iraqi Kurdistan pledged protection for Syrian Kurds from al-Nusra, a terrorist organization, which issued a fatwa calling for the killing of Kurdish women and children. Barzani declared on August 11, “The Kurdistan Region is ready to do everything in its power to protect the lives of the Kurds in western Kurdistan.”

The armed Kurdish militia is known as the Peshmerga (translated from Kurdish, meaning those who face death). They have defended Iraqi Kurds against Saddam Hussein’s repeated attacks, both conventional and unconventional. Before the “official” start of the Iraq War, The Peshmerga linked up with the CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD) and the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group and prepared the battle space for conventional U.S. Military forces throughout Iraq. The first step was eliminating Ansar Al Islam from their enclave around the village of Biyara. The Peshmerga has gone on to become strong allies in the war on terror in Iraq, especially in the Sunni dominated areas in Central Iraq, while providing security for Iraqi Kurdistan.