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Reviewed by:
  • Security Forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government
  • Michael M. Gunter (bio)
Security Forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, by Dennis P. Chapman . Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2011. $45.

Although a great deal has been written recently about the Iraqi Kurds and their largely autonomous federal state within Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), "we know comparatively little about the military and security forces that have so often been the primary instruments of their struggle" (p. 4). Dennis P. Chapman, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US armed forces, has given us a detailed technical study that helps close these gaps in our understanding. He published an earlier version of his present work with the US Army War College in 2009.

Specifically, Chapman analyzes the organization, administration, command structure, and legal basis, among others, of the KRG's security sector including its military forces (Peshmerga), police, security agencies (Asayish [Security]), intelligence services (Parastin [Protection] and Dezgay Zenyari [Information Apparatus]), paramilitary security services (Zerivani), as well as the judiciary and penal systems. In addition, Chapman discusses the degree of unity in these institutions achieved by the KRG's two ruling parties, Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). As recently as 1994-1998, these two parties fought each other in a bitter civil war, and animosities still exist. The author also examines the relationship between the KRG and the Government of Iraq (GOI) both within and outside the KRG's yet-to-be-determined final boundaries. Chapman writes, "By its own admission, as of [the] fall of 2008 the PUK had approximately 7,000 Peshmerga troops deployed outside its own administrative area" (p. 229).

Chapman's main concern is with the Peshmerga, or KRG's regular military forces. "In the years since the 1991 Gulf War, the Peshmerga have undergone a systematic [End Page 508] reorganization, evolving from a force of relatively loosely organized party-based militia [or guerrillas] into [a] large, legally constituted regional force organized along the lines of a regular army" (p. 97). The author provides a great deal of technical information — complete with detailed charts that will surfeit even the most demanding analyst. Although he finds that the Peshmerga has been "generally eschewing the terrorism and other forms of misconduct that so many other insurgent groups have taken to with zeal" (p. 104), "many Peshmerga veterans still serving are not really qualified for service in a modern force for a number of reasons, including age, literacy, and inability to adapt to new conditions" (p. 127).

Chapman also provides useful details on the Turkish army's presence in the region ("1200-1500 troops" [p. 135]), funding debates between the KRG and GOI regarding Peshmerga salaries and pensions, operations outside the KRG particularly "in areas with large concentrations of Kurdish population, indicating an implied task of securing Kurdish communities not under the formal jurisdiction of the KRG" (p. 136), bloated public employment, and the prospects for the ultimate unity of the Peshmerga, among other themes. The author notes that although probably most Peshmerga transfers have been into the Iraqi Army, "Peshmerga troops [also] have been converted into Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) units, Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi Army units, Environmental and Forest Police, Department of Border Enforcement units, and Police" (p. 166). He observes that "it appears that Kurdish units in the Iraqi Army have demonstrated greater loyalty to Iraq by their actions than have many of their Arab counterparts" (p. 175). Interestingly, women and non-Kurds also serve in the KRG security forces.

The KDP and PUK's Asayish agencies remain even more divided from each other than the Peshmerga, but still manage to cooperate in their FBI-like "jurisdiction over major economic and political crimes such as smuggling, espionage, sabotage, terrorism ... and other major crimes" (p. 184). Less than two pages are devoted to the CIA-like intelligence services, Parastin and Dazgay Zanyari. However, Chapman's discussion of the KRG's current judiciary system is the most extensive I have seen in English. Here he also points out problems such as cultural "competition from traditional or tribal sources of authority ... shortage of qualified personnel ... major backlog...


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pp. 508-509
Launched on MUSE
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