The recent military developments in Kurdistan are unprecedented in Kurdish history, as the Kurds faced what appeared to be significant threats from the terrorist bandits, the Islamic State (IS/formerly ISIS,) against the relatively safe Kurdistan Region.
This development has taken a toll on the Kurdish military (known as the Peshmerga) and security apparatuses — including their personnel, weapons, tactics, strategy and operations, which are all being put to the test like never before.
This has brought political factions together from neighboring Kurdish regions, which have in the past been known to not cooperate politically or militarily, at least overtly.
While the Peshmerga have countless decades of experience engaging in isolated guerilla operations against various well-equipped regimes in Iraq and some surrounding countries, they have never been tested by such state-of-the-art weaponry and warfare, and a devoted terrorist organization like IS.
IS is committed to carrying out an apparent genocide and mass crimes against humanity with the hopes of eradicating the Kurdish speaking Yezidi, Christians, and other minority groups in Kurdish areas.
The Peshmerga have proved an effective defensive force that has successfully held back IS in the recently broadened Kurdish borders, especially in Kirkuk province.
While the Peshmerga in Erbil province committed tactical retreats to preserve the major cities, this appears to have been done in order to regroup. The recent expansion of Kurdish territories by nearly 40 percent heavily taxed the military resources, personnel and equipment of the Kurdish forces, weakening some strategic points along their critical frontiers.
While tactical military retreats are acceptable during combat, some other Peshmerga planning and management is less than perfect and does not meet the needs of the modern battlefield or the needs of the people living in Kurdish-controlled areas.
The time has now come for Kurdish political leaders, the region’s Parliament and the Ministry for Peshmerga Affairs to move on from being “defense forces” to creating a more modern, professional military force that is well equipped, offering competitive salaries to its soldiers, sophisticated intelligence and strong allies.
The uniqueness of the current threat facing Kurdish areas has brought together the collective Kurdish forces which have consolidated their military might and attempted to safeguard the territorial integrity of Kurdish lands and the people that live there under the Peshmerga’s protection.
This is significant because Kurdish political, military and guerilla leaders have never concentrated their efforts to protect the people of Kurdistan during a mass operation such as this one against IS.
But this raises the important question as to how can the Peshmerga improve their military cooperation, operations and effectiveness starting tomorrow and well into the future (i.e. 50 years from now)? This calls for strategic planning.
While the Peshmerga fight on the front lines, the Kurdistan Region Parliament and political leaders must now start thinking about the future.
The future of Kurdistan — through the organized handling of Peshmerga and diplomacy — appears to be a bright one.
The people of Kurdistan, the Parliament and political leaders must recognize the weaknesses of the Peshmerga and take urgent steps to address these issues so they will be prepared in future conflicts after the IS threat has been eliminated.
Political leaders must establish a Peshmerga that is unified, controlled and established under the umbrella of the Kurdish flag — not among political lines, family ties or other alliances. A successful force is one that fights for the same cause while maintaining the same values.
This cannot be said of Peshmerga forces, because they belong to and are controlled by political parties. This could create a disaster both politically and on the battlefield during military operations.
The Parliament and political parties must centralize the Peshmerga forces’ commands and controls, as their allegiance should be to the integrity of Kurdistan’s borders, the protection of the people living within the borders of Kurdistan (not only the Kurdish people) and the Kurdish flag.
Moreover, the Peshmerga must be controlled by a unified command center to make for effective and efficient military planning and operations.
Those in charge of the Peshmerga must start considering strategic and advanced planning to ensure peace for the future. More efforts must be placed in conducting military exercises to test their own capabilities and shortfalls.
The Parliament must properly invest in arming the Peshmerga with modern weaponry, training and tactical warfare and increasing their support and services significantly to create a professional military according to international standards.
Furthermore, Kurdistan should align itself with NATO powers economically, politically and strategically to ensure its stability in the future. The current alliance with United States, France and Turkey, who are all NATO members, appears to be fruitful in terms of providing billions of dollars in military and technical support and humanitarian aid to Kurdistan.
Kurdistan must also start investing in establishing an academic military research institute, as well as modernizing military tactics, planning, strategy, intelligence and other critical resources.
While this appears to be a daunting task, it can be achieved with ease. The Peshmerga are heavily favored, well respected and admired by the people of Kurdistan.
Militarily, Kurdistan needs to be strong like the Israeli Defense Forces; diplomatically, it needs to be humble and diplomatic like Scandinavian nations.
Anything short of the above mentioned foresight will result in utter failure during any future military deployments or operations. The surrounding regions are watching the capabilities of the Peshmerga, and their shortfalls as well.
Ala Jaff is a practicing police and security professional in Canada. He holds a Police Foundations diploma and a BA in Law and is currently working towards his Master’s degree in Criminal Justice, Governance and Police Science.