A United States led delegation met with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani over the weekend. The meeting was to discuss what role Kurdistan will play in helping eliminate the last remnants of the Islamic State as well as how the will contribute to the formation of the new Iraqi government. The delegation was headed by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) General Joseph Votel and Erbil Consul General Ken Gross. The KRG released the statement that, “They discussed security and political developments in Iraq and the wider region, highlighted steps towards the formation of the new Iraqi government and the role of the Kurdistan Region in this process.”
Iraq’s parliament met today to consider replacing other chairs within Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is the current leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), their party won 25 seats during the course of the May elections, making them the most powerful Kurdish political group in parliament. Many of the results are being contested by the other Kurdistan based political groups who have leveled allegations of electoral fraud occurring.
The disputed territories such as Kirkuk have seen a recent spike in attacks on residents from Islamic State sleeper cells. Many of the people residing in these areas have called on the KRG to re-integrate the Peshmerga into the security forces there in an effort to deter attacks. The Peshmerga were pushed out in October by Iraqi paramilitary Hashd al-Shaabi forces who are extremely reluctant to work alongside Kurdish forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the Islamic State defeated in December last year after Mosul was retaken by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) working with coalition troops. The KRG stated after the meeting that, “They stressed the importance of military coordination among coalition, Iraqi and Peshmerga forces, especially in hunting remnants of ISIS and eliminating their recent movements in the region.”
The United States has consistently worked alongside two brigades of Peshmerga over the course of the conflict with ISIS. One of these has been the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) politically affiliated Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) who were instrumental in direct action operations that liberated a great number of ISIS held prisoners. The United States has provided logistics, equipment, and training to units like this for a number of years. The KRG hopes to continue this relationship in the future.
The KRG statement concluded that, “Coordination between coalition and Peshmerga forces was highly valued and the United States emphasized they will continue military support,” and both sides believe the only option for the Syrian half of the conflict is a “political settlement that would guarantee the rights of all communities.”
Featured image: Baghdad, Iraq — U.S. Army Gen Joseph L. Votel, commander United States Central Command, and General Al Banyan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chairman of Defense, meet with Erfan al-Hiyali, Iraq Minister of Defense, during the Chairman of Defense trilateral discussion between Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Votel met with military leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia to discuss security and stability in the region. | Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Dana Flamer