Irbil (Arbil [Arab] or Erbil [Turkoman] or Hawler [Kurd]) is located close to the Turkish and Iranian borders, 48 miles (77 km) east of Mosul in the foothills of the mountains that rise to the east. Arbil/Erbil/Irbil (others include Arbela and Hawler) all refer to the same location but vary based on Romanization approaches and linguistic preferences. The largest city in the Kurdish area of Iraq, with more than 500,000 residents, it is a commercial, agricultural, and administrative center. Irbil lives from commerce and administration, and thrives from the local oil industries. The city is the capital of the governate with the same name. The city is situated at the foothill of the mountains in the east. The population is a mixture of Christians and Sunni Muslim Kurds.
The center of the city rests on a 30 meter tall mound which is made up of ruins from Irbil's long history. One of the world's oldest continually settled towns, it has been continuously inhabited for about 8000 years. The earliest records referring to Arab'ilu belong to the late 3rd millennium BC. The ancient Assyrian city of Arab'ilu provides a living example of the formation of a Tell (mound). The mound is surmounted by an old Turkish fort. The ancient name, Arbela, is often erroneously applied to the battle fought in 331 BC at Gaugamela, a village west of Arbela, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III, king of Persia
With the Iraqi defeat against the international forces, in October 1991 Irbil became the capital of the semi-independent Iraqi Kurdistan. Northern Iraq has been independent of Saddam (and guarded by U.S. and British patrols) since the Kurdish uprising that followed the Gulf war in 1991. In March 1996 a CIA-backed rebel operation to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein failed. The Iraqi incursion into the territory left hundreds of Kurds dead and forced 7,000 more to be evacuated to the United States.
In late August 1996, backed by Iraq, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) launched an offensive in northern Iraq that led to the takeover of the regional capital of Irbil and placed most of the region under Massoud Barzani's control. On 31 August 1996 Iraqi troops seized Irbil. The Iraqi troops massed at Irbil consisted of three divisions of 30,000 to 40,000 Republican Guard troops equipped with heavy artillery and surface-to-air missiles. This was the first such deployment by Iraq since shortly after the end of the Gulf War in 1991. When they left, their man Barzani was put in administration. This marked the end of Iraqi Kurdistan's semi-independence. Irbil suffered little damage in the fighting. Most of the destruction was limited to buildings controlled by or identified with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the rival party to Barzani's. The destruction in Irbil of the headquarters of the Iraqi National Congress, which Washington set up in 1992 to undermine Saddam Hussein, fulfilled a major ambition of Hussein's security services.
The the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) controls Irbil and Dohuk, and its rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) administers Sulaymaniyah. By late 2003 Irbil had been renamed Hawler, and everywhere Kurdish signs have replaced those in Arabic.
Camp Zaytun / FOB Zaytun
Camp Zaytun is located near the Irbil International Airport. It is mostly Korean service members at the camp. Their main function is to provide aid in the reconstruction effort. Economic development, as well as educational and medical service programs, constitute a large portion of the Korean mission in the area. Much of this is accomplished through vocational training to local residents.
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