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Foreign volunteers in Kurdistan Region shift focus to medical aid

Qalubna Ma’kum, a group of foreign volunteers in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, offers the peshmerga forces medical treatment and training and is not participating in combat directly.

“We’re here to offer assistance. The last thing we want is to be seen as cowboys playing war in a place not our own,” Michael Wagnon told Al-Monitor in Amman, Jordan, awaiting a connecting flight to Erbil, Iraq. Wagnon is a former US Navy medic and founding member of Qalubna Ma’kum (Arabic for “Our hearts are with you”), a group of foreign volunteers serving in the peshmerga, the military of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq.

At least several dozen foreigners are volunteering with the peshmerga at present. But unlike past volunteers from Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere, Qalubna Ma’kum is largely focused on providing medical treatment and training, as opposed to participating in combat directly. They believe this will improve the image of foreign volunteers in Iraq and better help defeat the Islamic State (IS). Peshmerga commanders on the front lines welcome this new contribution.

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