Nechirvan Barzani, Kurdistan’s Prime Minister, held a meeting with a delegation of British civilian and military officials this week to discuss the modernization of Iraqi Kurdistan’s military forces, specifically the Peshmerga. The meeting was attended by several KRG officials to include deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. A statement released by the Kurdish Regional Government read, “Today March 27, Mr. Nechirvan Barzani, the Kurdistan Region’s prime minister, welcomed Lt. Gen. Sir John Lorimer, Britain’s Senior Defense Advisor to the Middle East and Prime Minister Theresa May’s envoy, accompanied by Mr. Jon Wilks, Britain’s ambassador to Iraq, and John Sharp, Britain’s acting consulate general in Erbil. The guest delegation praised the victory and sacrifices of the people and Peshmerga in the fight against terror and the coordination and cooperation between Peshmerga and British military advisors, and reiterated their country’s support in helping the Peshmerga and modernizing the Ministry of Peshmerga.”

Part of the initiative would be to unify the various politically motivated Peshmerga units under the Ministry of the Peshmerga, currently the major political parties such as the PDK and PUK possess their own private Peshmerga units ( the 70th and 80th forces) that are outside the control of the KRG. The ministry of Pehsmerga has direct control of nearly 42,000 currently soldiers. In conjunction to bring the Peshmerga under one roof, part of the modernization would be standardized training provided by the United States and partner coalition forces. The vast majority of leadership within the Kurdish military forces seek to further professionalize their force through modern training from western military advisors and have sought out such accommodations on an individual basis during the ISIS war. Head of US Joint Security Cooperation in Iraq, Maj. Gen John W. Baker officially stated that, “The US does support a united Kurdistan Region and an advanced and professional Peshmerga force.”

The British led delegation emphasized its hope to strengthen relations between the United Kingdom and the autonomous Kurdistan region through military support. Prime Minister closed the conference by thanking the UK for its continued military support and expressed his mutual desire for a continued alliance between the two entities. Both parties expressed that “positive developments” were being made in the way of Iraq government and KRG relations. It was agreed that the reopening of Kurdistan’s international airports coupled with providing the necessary funds to pay government salaries were both huge steps in the right direction. The relationship between the two governments became strained during Kurdistan’s vote for an independence referendum earlier this year. This was followed by an incursion into the then Kurdish controlled territory of Kirkuk by the Iraqi army and its allied PMF/PMU militias.

Featured Image Courtesy of Kurdishstruggle [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr