Patrick Cockburn, a correspondent for the UK newspaper The Independent, was recently interviewed by Antiwar Radio.
I highly recommend reading Cockburn’s short and very informative book, Muqtada. This book explores one of Iraq’s most influential political figures, a man whom the US has attempted to assassinate on multiple occasions and has now come out as the kingmaker following the latest Iraqi elections.
DJ Elliott maintains a site with a full breakdown of military deployment in Iraq, maps included. This ‘Order of Battle,’ as he states, contains “regular Army, Special Forces, Navy, Air Force, and Paramilitary Police.” The site, Montrose Toast, is regularly updated, one of the recent points of interest being a detailed map of Iraqi and US armed forces updated on 30 November 2009. This resource is very useful for those interested in learning about the details of military presence in Iraq.
Guns for hire are increasingly being used in US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, their numbers rising to shocking levels. These mercenaries are mainly paid for by the US, and their numbers often match or exceed those of foreign and local troops. 217,892 private security operate in Afghanistan and Iraq versus 192,000 US troops.
104,101 mercenaries (1)
68,000 US troops (2), plus 30,000 (3) more announced for a new total of 98,000
32,000 non-US foreign troops, plus 5,000 more announced for a new total of about 37,000 (3)
90,000 Afghan National Army (4), with a planned expansion to 134,000 troops by 2011 (5)
80,000 Afghan National Police (4), with a planned expansion to 82,000 by 2011 (5)
28.396 million estimated total population (6)
113,731 mercenaries (1)
124,000 US troops (1)
28,945,657 total population (7)
400, rough estimation of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan (1)
Below are videos from Al Jazeera on the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The program includes a round table discussion with Lakhdar Brahimi (former UN special envoy to Afghanistan and Iraq), Seymour Hersh (investigative journalist and contributor to The New Yorker), Shuja Nawaz (director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council of the US), and Tariq Ali (author and political commentator).
The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has recently made a statement condemning attacks by Kurdish militants within Iran. The Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), as this group is known, is an organization tied to the better known fighters operating for Kurdish independence in Turkey, the PKK.
The KRG has increasingly been careful to distance itself from its former allies the PKK and PJAK. Past cooperation included Iraqi, Turkish, and Iranian Kurds supporting each other’s fights for security, autonomy, or independence in each country. Now that the Kurds of Iraq have a formal, internationally recognized regional government within Iraq, they are treading more carefully in order not to antagonize their large neighbours: Turkey and Iran. Of course, there are strong ties of kin and culture between the Kurds in all three countries.
Furthermore, the KRG doesn’t have the capacity to face resistance on multiple fronts. Its future is still uncertain, and every month is a new chapter in the ongoing history of this fragile regional government. The KRG has its hands full in an increasingly heated political battle with the Iraqi central government, as well as Arab tribal and municipal leaders in the north of the country.
Significant and economically vital portions of northern Iraq are contested by the KRG and the central Iraqi government both. This competition is not simply determining the future of Iraq’s provincial boundaries, but is also influencing the outcome of the very nature of the federal state.
The fulcrum appears to be the distribution of power between a centralized versus decentralized federation. The direction of movement on this question will help determine the degree of independence in the hands of the KRG. The topography on which these parties are currently battling are in the contested territories: most notably at oil rich Kirkuk, and also at the large city of Mosul.
Al Jazeera news clip on tensions in Mosul:
I found these videos at the Iraq Oil Report.
Oil expert Faleh Al-Khayat presents at the European Parliament on 18 March 2009.
Tension increases between the Kurds and al-Maliki’s government in Iraq. President Talabani, a Kurd, and Prime Minister al-Maliki continue to battle over the Prime Minister’s plan to create ‘tribal councils’ loyal to his government.
The Kurds feel these councils will turn into illegal armed groups outside of the purview of the national army. The Kurds fear that these councils will be used to undermine their authority in northern Iraq, and will constitute a new armed faction at a time of increasing disagreement between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdish Regional Government.
The Kurds have expanded their influence and zone of control beyond the recognized borders of their territory and conflict is most noticeable in the cities of Kirkuk, and Mosul.
The Kurds rely on their own militias, the peshmerga, to retain control of their regions. Many of the peshmerga have been integrated into the national army though they tend to remain in homogeneous units.
The New York Times covers more on this story and reports that:
President Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, said at a news conference on Monday that on behalf of the Executive Council — made up of him and the two vice presidents — he would be sending the question to the Federal Supreme Court for a ruling on the constitutionality of the councils.