Recently I have been speaking with many of the Kurds I had previously served alongside in the Kurdish Peshmerga military forces. Many have moved on to veteran status and found civilian jobs. Many feel disenfranchised with the Peshmerga because it is surrounded by family hookups and back door deals. Corruption is common practice among the upper echelons. The ones who have done nothing now sit in positions of power while the men who fought the Islamic State remain expendable, low-level grunts. These men primarily belong to the 70th and 80th Forces brigades, private Peshmerga divisions that are politically affiliated and not under the command of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Peshmerga.
Both entities have been implicated in corrupt activities outside of the regional governments interest as well. The 70th Forces belong to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and are primarily commanded by the Talabani family. The 80th Forces are backed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and are run by the Barzani family. Both political parties and their private militaries have been accused of dealings with foreign entities while perpetuating the divide between each other creating a broken Kurdistan. The PUK has close ties to the Iranian government while the KDP continues to appease Turkish interests in the region. Meanwhile the Ministry of Peshmerga, who is the appointed authority for the Kurdish military, has no say in their dealings.
Many of these former (and current) soldiers feel that a unified Peshmerga is what is best for Kurdistan, these men are patriots after all. They believe that by bringing the Peshmerga units together under one roof, the Ministry of Peshmerga, that the corruption can be isolated and pushed out. I’m inclined to agree with them here, a singular Iraqi-Kurdish military force would absolutely strengthen the autonomous nation. The problem is that neither half wishes to compromise or unify for fear of losing the power they have. The two political parties were the makeup of the Kurdish civil war after all, so it’s understandable that they won’t set aside their differences. Both sides want a better Kurdistan at their core, but without unification they will never achieve that.
Featured image courtesy of the author.