Operation Provide Comfort - Northern Watch - Southern Watch
Saddam’s attacks on the Kurds and the resulting flood of refugees into the rugged mountains of Turkey and Iran led to the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 688 which condemned “the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq,” demanded that the Iraqi government “immediately end this repression,” and called on the U.N. Secretary General to “use all the resources at his disposal, including those of the relevant United Nations agencies, to address urgently the critical needs of the refugees and displaced Iraqi population.”
Based on this resolution, coalition forces led by the United States launched Operation Provide Comfort to supply the Kurdish refugees with food, shelter and clothing. Ground troops from the United States and 12 other countries also established a security zone to protect the Kurds from the Iraqi army. By mid-July, Air Force transports had delivered over 7,000 tons in relief supplies while Air Force fighters provided air support for the ground forces involved.
In concert with Provide Comfort, the US, the United Kingdom, and France established a northern no-fly zone from the Turkish border south to the 36th parallel in which Iraqi military aircraft were forbidden to operate. Stymied in the north, Saddam now turned south to punish the rebellious Shiite Muslims and in August 1992, a southern no-fly zone was created relying on the authority of Security Council Resolution 688. As part of what was called Operation Southern Watch, coalition aircraft, led primarily by the US and U.K., patrolled the skies from the Kuwaiti border north to the 33rd parallel to prevent Iraqi military aircraft operations. With the northern no-fly zone (re-designated Operation Northern Watch after Provide Comfort ended at the end of 1996) and Operation Southern Watch, the coalition was essentially conducting “the air occupation of a country…”
While providing air support for Provide Comfort and Northern Watch was turned over to USAFE, Southern Watch was under the command of CENTCOM’s Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) and required the continuing use of air bases in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Of course these bases needed defense and security and since CENTAF owned no forces of its own, Security Police, along with thousands of others in various Air Force specialties from units worldwide, rotated in and out of Southwest Asia for their turn to “play” in the “sandbox.” Even though their mission was partly to protect predominately Muslim Persian Gulf states from any new threat from Saddam Hussein by keeping him contained, the continuing American and European presence in Saudi Arabia, home of the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, fuelled the hatred of an as yet unrecognized enemy.