The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins joins me to open Wednesday’s show, talking about his long piece on the Kurds and ISIS from the current New Yorker.
The audio of the Filkins interview:
HH: I’m joined by Dexter Filkins, who’s got a must-read article at the New Yorker called The Fight Of Their Lives, which actually brings you as much detail on ISIS and the battle on the Kurdish border as well as throughout the region. Dexter, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, it’s great to have you.
DF: Thank you so much.
HH: How much time did you spend in Kurdistan prior to filing this, Dexter?
DF: Several weeks. I made two trips. You know, the situation kept changing, so I went there in late June. I stayed through most of July and then I had to go back just because you know, ISIS captured a bunch of territory, and then you know, the U.S. started bombing, and so I just, I had to keep going back to update the thing, because it was all very fluid, you know?
HH: Now two days ago, I had on Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and I asked him about Kurdistan and their ability to wage war against ISIS. Here is what he had to say, Dexter Filkins.
RC: Hugh, it’s a difficult situation. The Peshmerga is, as anyone who served out there knows, are a very light infantry, and organizationally, they fight at the small unit level, you know, basically platoon. So we should not think that you can take a force like this and give them heavy weapons and ask them to organize into brigade-sized formations and it’s going to work. You know, they’re formidable when they fight on their own territory, when they’re up in their own mountains. But we’re asking them to do something different, not asking, I mean, they’re doing it on their own, which is fight ISIS in the flatlands. That’s not how they’re structured.
HH: Now Dexter Filkins, as I read your piece, I had considerably more optimism about the Peshmerga’s ability to push ISIS back, maybe even out of Mosul. Do you agree with Ambassador Crocker? Or is he underestimating the Peshmerga’s abilities?
DF: No, he’s right on the money, I think. You know, the Kurds, I think he was, the main point is the Kurds want Kurdistan, and that means holding on to territory where, that are predominate by Kurdish people. And that means probably not going into Arab villages where ISIS predominates. And so if you look at the map of Iraq where ISIS has moved into, they’ve basically focused on areas where they could count on local support, and that means Arabs. They did push in, you know, they took the Mosul Dam, and they pushed into some Kurdish areas, Sinjar. I went to some of those villages, Makhmour, and they were Kurdish. And they’ve been kicked out of most of those villages, because, you know, like, there’s no local supporters, and frankly, when they moved into the Kurdish villages, the Kurdish people just left. So they literally, ISIS moved into these utterly empty villages. But I think, I don’t think the Kurds have the ability to move beyond, much beyond Kurdistan. But frankly, also, I don’t think they have the desire. They just, they want Kurdistan for the Kurds, and I think that’s their main focus. So you can drive now, you know, when I was there, you can, it’s a really weird thing to see. You can drive along the borders of Kurdistan in Iraq, look across that border, and in some cases, it’s a canal. Some cases, it’s just an open field. And there’s ISIS, you know, with their black flag flying. And it’s weird. It feels like the border of another country. But my sense is that border, you know, until the Iraqi Army, and you know, don’t hold your breath for the Iraqi Army, but until they are ready to move into some of those places, I just don’t see the Peshmerga doing it, at least not very far. Continue Reading