The Demise of Operation Provide Comfort

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER203

The evacuation of several thousand Iraqi Kurds from northern Iraq by the US military in December 1996 constituted the last gasp of Operation Provide Comfort. This operation was launched in the spring of 1991, in the wake of the Gulf war and Kurdish uprising against Baghdad, as hundreds of thousands of Kurds, fleeing Iraqi depredations in the valleys below, escaped to the high mountain ranges that mark the Iraqi-Turkish border. In October 1991, the Iraqis withdrew, freeing the Kurds to carve out an autonomous region. This territory was nominally protected by an allied Military Coordination Center based in the Iraqi border town of Zakho and by allied fighter jets and AWACS planes patrolling the no-fly zone above the thirty-sixth parallel from the US airbase at Incirlik, Turkey.

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