I served in the Iraq war 2005 to 2006. My job was to approve (or not) reconstruction projects. My post was at division level. We had some $90 million dollars each fiscal year to spend on projects inside Iraq. There were various civil affairs constraints on how to spend that money. It was my job to make sure these reconstruction projects adhered to civil affairs doctrine. I go outside the wire and visit each of our four brigades and look at one project. Each month, I visited a Brigade headquarters to go look at one project.
In Mosul, the Civl Affairs Team had to rely on an Infantry platoon for bodies sufficient to man a patrol. As we went out to look at one project, the Infantry guys were also going to deliver school supplies to a nearby school. We ended up at an all-girls school. The teachers and all the students were female. But, this being Iraq, there was one adult male to act as chaperone. His only job, as we understood it later, was to help with small jobs and to chaperone the women when they encounter men.
The chaperone was a pain in the neck. There were some dozen officers and Non-Commissioned Officers taking school supplies to various classrooms. Going here and going there. The small school was filled with Americans in uniform and helmet handing out boxes of school supplies. The male chaperone followed every single person like a puppy dog. Later, we learned the reason. He wanted his share of the loot. To us, it was just school supplies. But, to him, part of his pay was some portion of whatever the school received.
We, as the Army guys, knew none of this during the visit. Only in leaving did the interpreter explain to us what had occurred. As the visit was concluding and we were saying good bye to these wonderful teachers and sweet, polite kids, the chaperone asked the interpreter for his share.
One thing about a counter-insurgency, you do not make unnecessary enemies. We had enough people wanting to kill us. We did not need more. The Interpreter knew this. He had worked with this Infantry Major many times before. The interpreter did mot want to offend the chaperone, but neither did he want to give him anything. Not to mention all the school supplies were handed out, already. Without consulting with the Infantry major in charge, the interpreter knew what to do. He told the chaperone he would get something when we come back. There would be no return trip. The interpreter knew that. But, he found a polite way to say no.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, no one messed with our interpreters. In countless ways, they saved many U.S. Army lives. That experience makes it hard to watch Pres. Trump say the Kurds are not worth our support and that we owe them nothing. I did not work with the Syrian Kurds, but did work indirectly with Kurds in northern Iraq. The Iraqi Kurds were wonderful to work with. They had many Western values. I am very doubtful the Syrian Kurds are not worth our support. I expect they were, as many Special Forces soldiers have said, exceptional allies who deserve serve our support.