KIRKUK, Iraq - Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.Right now, a large deployment of U.S. troops is all that is keeping a lid on things. How long are we going to keep our fingers in the dike? It’s costing us the lives of two soldiers a day, even more wounded (some horribly) and gobs o’ billions of dollars. Can we wait it out at that price? Can we wait it out at all or are things going to fly apart no matter how long we stay? I think it unlikely that these ethnic and religious tensions are going to do anything but get worse over time.
Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.
All this leads me to believe we need to get out now with the exception of advisors, a rapid response force and air power to prevent wholesale slaughter. There’s nothing new to that idea, it’s essentially what people like Juan Cole and Congressman John Muthra have proposed. I see no indication the insurgency is going to quit anything close to soon so we are going to be paying the price of occupation as long as we are there. In return all we are doing is prolonging the inevitable struggle amongst Iraqis for the equilibrium of power.
Who knows, faced with the awfulness of civil strife all sides might be more willing to cooperate eventually. They certainly have no incentive to do so now.