September 10, 2005


Iraqi and U.S. Troops Clear Rebel Stronghold (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/11/05)

Insurgents melted into the countryside around Tal Afar, the militant stronghold near the Syrian border, and guns fell silent Sunday -- the second day of an offensive by 5,000 Iraqi soldiers backed by 3,500 American troops and armor. [...]

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari ordered the Rabiyah border crossing closed in an attempt to stanch the flow of insurgents from Syria.

With the Tal Afar offensive under way after days of skirmishing on the outskirts of the city, Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi signaled his U.S.-trained forces would not stop after this operation and vowed to move against insurgent bastions throughout the country.

''We say to our people ... we are coming,'' he said.

The offensive in Tal Afar is especially delicate because of the tangle of ethnic sensitivities in the region.

About 90 percent of the city's population -- most of which fled to the countryside before the fighting began -- is Sunni Turkmen who have complained about their treatment from the Shiite-dominated government and police force put in place after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Addressing that complaint, Jabr announced Saturday that 1,000 additional police officers would be hired in Tal Afar after the offensive and that they would be chosen from the Turkmen population.

The Turkmen have a vocal ally in their Turkish brethren to the north, where Turkey's government is a vital U.S. ally and has fought against its own Kurdish insurgency for decades. Tal Afar is next to land controlled by Iraqi Kurds.

Turkey voiced disapproval of U.S. tactics when American forces ran insurgents out of Tal Afar a year ago. The Turkmen residents complained that Iraqi Kurds were fighting alongside the Americans.

U.S. and Kurdish officials denied the allegation, but the Turkish government threatened to stop cooperating with the Americans. The siege was lifted the next day and insurgents began returning when the Americans quickly pulled out, leaving behind only a skeleton force of 500 soldiers.

For those reasons, U.S. forces stood back during the new sweep through Tal Afar, allowing Iraqi forces to break down doors in the search for insurgents. The Americans followed behind, securing positions while the Iraqis advanced.

It will shortly be time for the Kurds to simply take over such portions of Syria as harbort insurgents and, if necessary, drive out any Turkmen Sunni who can't accept majority rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 10, 2005 11:52 PM

We should support their drive for a free Kurdistan.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2005 9:28 AM

Greater Kurdistan

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2005 9:32 AM