Kurdish soldiers in the Iraqi army have deserted after they were told they would be deployed to Baghdad as part of George Bush's troop 'surge'.
Many of the soldiers, drawn from the mountains rather than the urban areas, do not speak Arabic and did not want to be part of a sectarian war.
Others said they joined the army in order to defend the country and did not want to be accused of collaborating with the occupation.
One deserter said, 'I joined the army to be a soldier in my homeland, among my people. Not to fight for others who I have nothing to do with.'
Kurdish troops from the oil rich city of Kirkuk, where Arabic is widely spoken, were not considered reliable by generals in the Iraqi army.
A US colonel, who advises the Kurdish battalion, told a newspaper that, 'The public is adamantly against [the deployment] up here. It's because there's a great fear of the ethnic strife down there in Baghdad and a fear of it somehow making its way up here.'
Tensions between Kurds and Arabs over the future of Kirkuk are already in danger of sparking an ethnic war.
The colonel admitted that he expected only several hundred of the 1,600 soldiers to show up for the mission.
The growing discontent in Iraqi Kurdistan comes as the Turkish military is poised for a 'limited incursion' into the region to attack bases belonging to the PKK – the Kurdish guerrilla organisation fighting for the independence of Kurdish lands in Turkey.
Last week the Turkish airforce bombed PKK bases on the Iraqi-Turkish border.