It’s been a full week for SoA here in Iraqi Kurdistan. We’ve been meeting up with Department of State officers and forward deployed members of our military. These engagements are crucial to our mission: they allow us to follow through on ongoing projects and identify new opportunities to advance the mission of deployed U.S. personnel—diplomats and military.
Over the weekend, Isaac, our program’s director, and Gabe, my partner in the Middle East region, caught up with Captain Dilgash. In the fall of 2015, SoA provided Captain Dilgash’s Peshmerga engineering unit with the tools necessary to identify and dismantle roadside bombs and booby traps. Captain Dilgash commanded a Peshmerga company in the pivotal battle to liberate Sinjar Mountain, home to Iraq’s Yazidi religious community, from ISIS. His soldiers used SoA-provided equipment, donated by Garrett Electronics, in the field to great effect. When I met with him in January, Captain Dilgash told me: “I used your [SoA] equipment immediately in the Sinjar Operation. Your equipment helped us discover buried IEDs [Improvised Explosive Device]. It also helped us discover small explosive devices.” He went on to say, “I searched with your equipment and discovered five IEDs with lots of explosives. If we did not have your equipment, probably 20 Peshmerga would have lost their lives, if not more.”
Captain Dilgash was recently reassigned to a headquarters unit in Erbil, not far from where we were staying. He visited with our team, updated us on the general progress of the campaign against ISIS, and shared with us pictures of the metal detectors being used in the field and keeping Peshmerga troops out of harm’s way. The images were a striking reminder of the life-saving quality of our work, especially once Captain Dilgash noted that over 30 IEDs have been discovered with tools we provided.
This week started in the city Dohuk, about 2 hours drive northwest of Erbil. I traveled there to meet with a forward deployed team of U.S. advisors to follow up on a project to provide medical resources to their frontline Peshmerga counterparts. While there, I took advantage of the opportunity to catch up with our friends at the University of Dohuk Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies, a peace building initiative funded by the U.S. Department of State. Last year we provided funding for several of the Center’s peace education activities.
Our mission covers a broad footprint. On any given day in Iraq, and around an ever-tumultuous globe, SoA projects are actively supporting the work of diplomats, troops, and peace builders, delivering urgent aid to those who need it most.
Next stop: Tajikistan.