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Beginning in April 1991, Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, under the control of United States Central Command, followed the end of active combat in Operation DESERT STORM. It gave humanitarian assistance to the Kurds of northern Iraq, and protected them with a no-fly zone in Iraq north of the 36th parallel.[1] It was initially commanded by GEN John Shalikashvili, who would become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While United States Army Special Forces units were actively involved in the operation, they were forbidden to teach guerrilla warfare to the Kurds. While the U.S. was still opposed to the government of Saddam Hussein and Kurds were potential insurgents, there was extreme sensitivity, on the part of Turkey, to the possibility of Kurdish separatism in that country.

In January 1997, Operation NORTHERN WATCH replaced PROVIDE COMFORT, with a focus on enforcing the northern no-fly zone, as well as humanitarian operations.