US signs first historical military agreement with Kurds to fight ISIS

Kurdish Peshmerga forces fire locations of ISIS militants in northern Iraq. File photo

ARA News 

ERBIL – In an unprecedented step, the US has signed an agreement with the Kurdish government in northern Iraq to give military and financial support to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

Before the arrival of ISIS in August 2014, the Kurdish Peshmerga troops were forced to rely on old military equipment, and were prevented from buying military equipment from outside Iraq.

Now, the Peshmerga forces are one of the main partners for the US-led coalition, and receive weapons and ammunition from several coalition members, including the United States.

On Tuesday, Iraqi Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani received a United States military delegation headed by Ms. Elissa Slotkin, the acting assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. 

This meeting was followed by a telephone conversation between President Barzani and Mr. Ashton Carter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

“President Barzani and Ms. Slotkin discussed the liberation of Mosul and the status of the preparations and readiness from the U.S., Iraqi and Kurdistan Region perspectives,” the Kurdistan Region Presidency said in a statement.

“President Barzani focused on the importance and urgency of the liberation of Mosul and used the opportunity to reiterated his position of the extreme importance of planning for post-liberation Mosul,” the statement added.

Reportedly, Slotkin suggested that the Peshmerga forces will play an essential role in the fight in Mosul in the future.

In March, two Kurdish Peshmerga brigades received full equipment from the United States Army for the first time, in order to prepare them for the battle of Mosul–main bastion for the Islamic State radical group in Iraq. The equipment included helmets, body armor vests, anti-chemical protection equipment, medical equipment and M16 rifles.

Moreover, in April, the United States provided $415 million to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces after their salaries were cut due to the economic crisis, and the refusal of Baghdad to pay salaries of the Peshmergas. 

Kurdish officials see the agreement as recognition of the sacrifices of Peshmerga forces in the war on ISIS.

Speaking to ARA News, official spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Safeen Dizayee said: “It’s a recognition, appreciation and value of Peshmergas’ sacrifices, and a contribution to stability and defence of liberty, democracy and humanity.”  

On Monday, John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US State Department said that the United States “recognize the service, the sacrifice, the courage, the bravery, the skill on the battlefield that the Peshmerga have demonstrated every single day.”

“And we’re mindful of the toll that this fight has taken up in the north and the significant role that the Kurdish Regional Government has played in terms of trying to deal with it as well. That’s why, when you see [US-led coalition envoy] Brett McGurk traveling to the region, he never fails to stop in Erbil and have discussions with KRG representatives,” he said.

“Due to the current financial crisis and troubled relations between KRG and the central Iraqi government it has become impossible for KRG to fund its war against ISIS,” Ceng Sagnic, a researcher with the Tel Aviv-based Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies told ARA News.

“The military memorandum between KRG and the US was initiated as a legal framework for the US to be able to fund Peshmerga forces without intervening in the KRG-Baghdad relations by forcing the central Iraqi government to deposit the full amount of Kurds’ share from funds allocated for this country,” he added.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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