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Kurdistan is the only autonomous (self-governing) region in Northern Iraq — a democratic oasis in the center of hell, surrounded by hostile neighbors in Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. Since the Kurds are not technically governed by Iraq, the Iraqi military is prohibited from entering Kurdistan to defend the region. The Kurds are on their own.

The Peshmerga — literally “one who faces death” — are Kurdistan’s military forces. They consist of loosely allied groups of former guerrilla units, men and women, defending against incursion, fighting for Kurdish independence. In 2014, ISIS mounted a major offensive against Kurdistan. The Peshmerga beat back the jihadis, and then brought the fight to ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Despite being on the same “team” as the Iraqis, Iraq’s fears of Kurdish independence have mooted any transfer of arms, ammo or equipment to the Kurds. In the main, the Peshmerga rely on scavenged arms and material from vanquished foes. Whether by necessity or choice, the Peshmerga are known for not taking prisoners and razing captured Arab villages to the ground.

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The U.S. military operating in these conflict zones look to the Peshmerga to assist them with intelligence, support and combat. Many of our soldiers who’ve worked with the Peshmerga call them brothers.

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Some formed bonds so strong that they returned to Kurdistan after they completed their service to fight alongside the Peshmerga. Vets like “Waco” . . .

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I first saw Waco on Instagram where he posts pictures of his life in Iraq as a Peshmerga soldier. Through a multitude of photos with Iraq as the backdrop the young vet beams patriotism for his country as well as respect for the Iraqi men he now calls brothers.  I became curious to find out why this fellow Texan would embark on such a journey. Here’s what I found on Facebook . . .

I’m American through and through. I’ve fought for our country and bleed red, white, and blue…but do not mistake me… I am a Texan first. I am proud to be American, blessed to be a Texan. When people here in Iraq or from other foreign lands ask me what I am, my first response is always Texan…trust me they’ve heard of us.

More Texans join the military than any other state, it’s not just our pop numbers it’s our heart, our desire to serve, and fight. As Texans we are fighters to our core. America was built by rebels and fighters, Texas was built by the top 1% of those fighters, and that attitude carries on. ***A convo that I had w Europeans earlier, trying to explain why most of the American fighters they meet are from Texas.

The German AK-47 is Waco’s weapon of choice; he considers it the most reliable platform for the job at hand. He also reckons it’s his least expensive option, setting him back around $450 without attachments. And ammo is cheap. He uses an ACOGs and iron sights.

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Waco’s team uses a variation of the DShK 1938 in 12.7mm, 14.5 and 23mm — a heavy machine gun to put down ground fire when necessary. He also has access to a recoilesss rifle, Panzerfaust 3 and an RPG-7.

Waco reports that ISIS uses similar weapons. As there’s a high demand for firearms collected from the recently deceased, the unspoken “law of the land” is that the gun remaining after a kill is not yours until you have physically touched it. Of course, its not always safe to remove the weapons.

Dedicated gun thieves collect weapons and sell them back to ISIS. ISIS also uses handmade grenades made out of water bottles, larger IED’s, VBIED’s and homemade rockets. It’s rumored that ISIS has a few Abrams tanks captured from the Iraqi army (supplied by the US government). Thankfully, Waco has never seen them in action.

How difficult is it to join the Peshmerga? It’s a price you may very well pay for with your life — even before you ever get enlisted. According to Waco, he bought a plane ticket and took that plunge. He says he was fortunate enough to end up with one of the most respected Peshmerga units, led by General Wahid Kovley. It’s nicknamed the “Black Devils,” a name given to them by the Daesh.

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Waco lives on the frontline, he says “Daesh is 3km from us and we almost daily get something, whether it be mortars, heavy machine gun fire, homemade rockets, chemical attacks or a variation of all those combined.”

As I learned more about his mission, his sacrifice and his need I was saddened. There aren’t many people interested in supporting this cause. The idea of Kurdistan and rebel forces far away just doesn’t seem to hit home to most of us.

It did, however, hit home to Waco who left the comfort of his Texas home and family to fight a war against an evil force killing innocent men, women and children. A force spreading their poisonous ideology into the U.S., inspiring terrorist attacks in The Land of the Free.

Waco may never receive a medal, recognition or respect for what he’s doing, but that doesn’t matter to him. I asked him why he decided to join the Peshmerga. “I can remember sitting down reading article after article about the atrocities committed at the hands of Daesh (ISIS) and thinking to myself fuck that shit! I need to be there! I have the experience, the training and the heart to do it.”

I asked Waco what he missed the most about Texas. “Honestly, I miss pork the most, more specifically bacon. I miss the Texas summers floating down the Guadalupe with my friends and drinking a cold beverage.”

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When I asked him if he would ever come back and live a regular life, he said “Those things will be there when I get back, they are enough to make me miss them but not enough to make me pack up my bags and go back”.

According to Waco it’s extremely hard to join in with a Peshmerga unit that is actually on the frontline. Many are suspicious of outsiders and they are scared to let westerners on the front, in fear that it may lead to bad publicity or backlash from the U.S. government.

As he told me,

It took me a long time to gain the Kurds’ trust and prove that I was a capable soldier who had what it took to endure life on the frontline. A lot of guys aren’t as lucky as me or the handful of others that got to the frontline. Most guys get stuck in the rear with support units never seeing any action. It’s even harder now since the U.S. gave the Kurds $400 million plus in aid.

My advice to anyone wanting to come out here to fight: don’t…unless you’ve been with the Pesh before and you have those contacts. Otherwise you’ll be throwing your money and time away, and trust me it is very expensive to be an unpaid soldier on your own dime.

He says he’s witnessed many men try to join and only last a week or a month, unable to endure the harsh conditions they live in since they aren’t supplied by the military. How do American fighters cope? “You have to be able to embrace the suck.”

 

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40 Responses to Interview With an American Peshmerga

  1. That’s a REALLY tough call. What concerns me is that scumbags like Obama would prosecute this guy for violating some obscure federal law.

    • I doubt Obama would prosecute. More likely some dollars are shoveled his way under the table.

      So, which one of you tough guys is going to be the first to say this guy is not a real operator because there is not a mall in a hundred miles of him.

      • This is a fact that is often over-looked. I have yet to see any evidence that the more organized Kurd forces are anything but the marxist PKK.

      • This kind of brings up a question that I have. I’ve read about how some want to create a “greater kurdistan”. What’s with that?

        • Create a greater Kurdistan? Perhaps you didn’t know, Kurdistan existed before there was a country of Iraq. The Kurdistan region was divided when the national boundaries of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey were drawn on a map in 1920 by the League of Nations.

          Having lived as a resident in the KRG, specifically, Erbil, and having met Kurdish President Barzani, several times, I can tell you that I have a great deal of respect for these people and their culture. As for politics, they are not Marxists. The government is a Parliamentary Democracy.

          The region would be much better off if Kurdistan was its own country with full recognition.

        • I read not long ago about how some people want to create a “greater Kurdistan”, which would encompass a LOT MORE of the region.

      • Kurds are not monolithic.

        If you’re speaking about PKK aka Kurdistan Worker’s Party, the guys who used to be pretty hardcore commies, and who constantly attack military and police targets in Turkey, those are different guys. They are affiliated with Syrian Kurdistan (aka Rojava) and their battle wing, YPG.

        Peshmerga is Iraqi Kurdish militia, and Iraqi Kurdistan is not affiliated with PKK, nor particularly friendly towards it.

        For what it’s worth, PKK hasn’t been communist for a long time now, either. It’s now more of a kind of social anarchist blend – they explicitly reject a centralized state, for example.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Confederalism

  2. I admire his courage and sacrifice, and respect his choices. I pray for a successful mission and a safe journey home.

    And I have no idea what that is in his right hand, but I want one.

    • Throwing that $400 Million number out at the end just raises all kinds of questions. I’m a follow-the-money kind of guy, though.

    • Part of the reason we have trouble here at home is because the trouble over there in raghead land has been allowed to advance unmolested.

  3. The Kurdistan is a modern day Alamo fighting a three-front seige againt the Syrian Rebels, ISIS, and the Turks. U.S. throws some money at them, an occasional air-strike, and tells the Turks to cut-it-out once in a while (though they don’t listen).

    They are a peaceful people, historically persecuted and my heart goes out to them, and the men and women willing to stick it out with them.

    • East German AK’s are the second most prolific AK in the world after the Chinese ones and are more numerous than Soviet ones. Unlike parts kits in the U.S., they are quite common overseas compared to here.

  4. The Kurds will never be safe until they have a homeland of their own. Until then, they’re at the mercy of Arabs and Turks, neither of whom have any mercy.

  5. Hell yeah. I’m glad he told other veterans or volunteers not go though, for that exact reason. If you have the right connections, like you were SF and were embedded with people that can vouch for you, they’re just not going to trust you. Which is understandable. When civil war 2 breaks out here, we’re probably going to be pretty skeptical of foreigners too.

  6. Slightly different attitude than clueless American journalists or backpackers, wandering around in Iran, captured, then pleading with the US to bail them out, eh?

  7. Serious question (just curious): how does an individual American go about buying a firearm. in a foreign country? Is someone like Waco limited to what the Peshmerga will give him and what he takes off of ISIS, or is there some way for him to (theoretically) order up a brand new HK?

  8. As foreign fighters here, we get asked to do a lot of interviews, this is the first one i have ever agreed to. I’d just like to say Liberte Austin is one of the most solid people I know. I appreciate the fact that she kept this article factual and straight to the point. If y’all would like to follow or talk my instagram is @soter.legion my time here is windimg down and look to be headed back to Texas soon, but if I have the time I will respond to you. Take care, God Bless.

    • I’m extremely impressed with your dedication, Waco. My Bride doesn’t want our child fighting ISIS to which I reply “fortunately, there are SF and others fighting ISIS, so maybe ours won’t need to fight them on our front lawn”. He’s a fine kid and will fight a good fight if it comes to it. Man, I wish I were younger, reading this interview. May the Lord Bless and Keep You.

    • I grew up in Waco, and there’s a lot I saw growing up that made me get out as soon as I hit 18. You, sir, however, are a pride of our hometown, and I salute you and your choices. I wish you a successful mission and safe travels.

  9. Sounds like a bloodthirsty psychopath. There are plenty of do-gooder opportunities here in the U.S. to occupy someone’s time and utilize their talents. You don’t need to go marching around, blowing up skulls, in a foreign land, on behalf of foreign people, who are themselves a terrorist group.

    • My dear friend Jonathan… you come across like a real ass.

      I assume you wish for young Waco to return home, perhaps to join the “protests” in Charlotte, or another equally worthy sjw project?

      • Ditto that! Johnathan is probably one of those guys that has never fought for his country let alone volunteered to go over and fight! Just another troll! Ugh! Waco has my upmost respect! Not many people would volunteer…no pay…to help! Someone like Johnathan needs to get a life…perhaps volunteer!

    • Why is YPG a terrorist group? Because Turks say so? And why would you trust them on that?

      To the British, American patriots were terrorists.

  10. Great article.
    Check out the Lions of Rojava – other warriors from around the world going to fight with the Kurds against evil. It’s a whole other level of dedication to go somewhere and fight not with your country’s military.
    Hats off to you Waco, and others fighting the good fight. Godspeed.

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