International Information

International Operation Name: Operation PROVIDE COMFORT (I)

International Mission Name: Operation PROVIDE COMFORT (I)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Middle East

Location: Iraq

Mission Date: 6 April 1991 - 31 December 1996

Mission Mandate: To ensure safe delivery of humanitarian aid to Kurdish refugees in Eastern Turkey and northern Iraq.

Mission/Operation Notes: After the defeat of Iraq’s military forces in the Gulf War, Iraqi Kurds rose up in revolt against the Baghdad regime. Some Kurdish groups had been waging a decades-long campaign against Iran, Iraq and Turkey, demanding the establishment of a separate Kurdish state - Kurdistan. Encouraged by American radio broadcasts that seemed to urge a revolt against the defeated Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Kurds did so, expecting American assistance.

In March 1991, Kurdish rebels seized and controlled a large area in the north. The Iraqi military struck back with force, and quickly recovered much of the lost ground. Fearing for their safety, over one million Kurds fled the area, into the mountains of Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The conditions in this region were austere, creating a situation that, by the start of April, was resulting in the deaths of an estimated 800 - 1000 a day.

In the face of this crisis, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 688 (5 April 1991), which requested that Iraq halt the repression and that member states assist in humanitarian relief efforts. In support of this effort, the United States launched Operation PROVIDE COMFORT on 6 April, operating from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. British and French cargo aircraft arrived the next day, with more from another 10 nations arriving soon thereafter.

Operation PROVIDE COMFORT actually consisted of two components: a relief operation, which included Canadian participation under Operation ASSIST and Operation REGARD, and a security operation, to ensure that Iraq could not interfere with the relief efforts. The security operation also included a no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in which all Iraqi aircraft were banned. To back up both components, American A-10 aircraft preceded relief aircraft to ensure that Iraqi ground troops did not take action, while F-15 and F-16 fighters were available to counter any Iraqi aerial threat. Overhead, an E-3 AWACS monitored the situation and controlled the supporting aircraft.

The humanitarian aspect of PROVIDE COMFORT ceased in 1996, with the overall operation ending on 31 December 1996. The enforcement of the no-fly zone was continued under operation NORTHERN WATCH.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (PROVIDE COMFORT)

CF Mission/Operation Notes: Canadians participated in the AWACS component of PROVIDE COMFORT from the start of the operation. The Canadian Component of the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, was integrated into the aircrew of the four squadrons flying from the base. Having flown AWACS missions during the Gulf War, the E-3s were still flying in the theatre to ensure Iraq’s compliance with Security Council Resolution 687, demanding peaceful intentions of Iraq. With the start of Op NORTHERN WATCH, Canadians in the E-3s continued surveillance of Iraqi airspace.

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