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BAGHDAD, Iraq—Neither the U.S. military nor the Iraqi Defense Ministry has authorized Western reporters to stay with Iraqi military units for extended periods without being accompanied by American military assistance teams.

I previously reported on an all-Iraqi unit without U.S. military supervision after receiving an invitation directly from the unit, going to its Baghdad base and meeting an Iraqi army officer who escorted me in.

Similar reporting in the dangerous cities of Kirkuk and Mosul required the cooperation of Iraqi commanders of the Kurdish militia known as the Peshmerga.

For this story, I took a commercial flight from Baghdad to Irbil on Dec. 20 and, working with a Kurdish translator, contacted the Peshmerga leadership. Peshmerga leaders then opened many doors, arranging visits to Peshmerga militia units that turned out to be units of the Iraqi army.

For example, the Peshmerga arranged for Iraqi soldiers at a base in Irbil to meet me on the afternoon of Dec. 21 and take me—along with two pickup loads of soldiers with AK-47s and heavy machine guns—to the Kurdistan Democratic Party's headquarters in Mosul.

Party officials then escorted me across the street to an Iraqi army brigade headquarters, where I spent the evening conducting interviews and going on patrols. The next morning, I was taken to the division headquarters in Mosul and spent the day doing interviews. I rode back to Irbil with a brigade commander in a convoy of sport utility vehicles and pickups equipped with heavy machine guns.

For the remainder of the five-day reporting trip, I relied on taxicabs and various military escorts to visit other cities and military installations in northern Iraq.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.