"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, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr announced Saturday that another 1,000 police officers would be hired in Tal Afar after the offensive, and 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 have stood back during the new sweep through Tal Afar, allowing Iraqi forces to break down doors in the search for insurgents." Yahoo News
All right… Now, how many of the 5000 Iraqi troops in this operation are Turkmen? How many do you suppose are former Kurdish Pesh Merga militia recruited from among the ancestral enemies of the Turkmen? How many are Shia Arabs who used to belong to SCIRI and Dawa Party militias?
We generally don’t have a clue in dealing with ethnic issues, mush less regional issues. When I was stationed in Saudi Arabia, as Defense Attache in the embassy, I used to go to the field to observe exercises of the Saudi National Guard. This is an all Beduin force separate from the Saudi Army. Why did I do that? It was my job to keep track of the state of training of all Saudi forces.
On one of these trips, I noticed a Lieutenant in a motorized full time unit (second tier) who looked different. In talking to him it became clear that by his accent he was something different. I asked him what tribe he was from. He said "Beni Sakhr." This was interesting because this is a tribe in Jordan.
"Yes," he said. "I am a Jordanian Army officer seconded to the Saudi Guard."
"Do they know that?" I asked him of the Americans conducting the exercise.
"No," he said with a laugh. "They never asked in the month we have been together. They think they are teaching me something. I am a Sandhurst graduate."
We often don’t understand what we are dealing with.