The Kurdistan Regional Government is working with the Ministry of Peshmerga and United States-led coalition to officially reform the Peshmerga into a unified fighting force, despite political differences. Acting Minister Karim Sinjari confirmed this to local media this week, saying that the 70th and 80th forces will eventually be joined with the Ministry of Peshmerga, forming a unified Kurdish military. The 70th Forces are strictly affiliated to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the 80th Forces belong to the Kurdistan Diplomatic Party (KDP), two political parties that have historically been at odds and even fought a civil war against each other.

Minister Sinjari recently spoke at an award ceremony in Erbil, claiming that no political party would be permitted to interfere with the transition. The initiative was put into effect by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and supported by the majority of officials residing in the autonomous region. Minister Sinjari stated that,

Practical steps are underway for the reunification of both the 70 and 80 unit forces of the Peshmerga ministry and the reforms program in the Peshmerga ministry has kicked off. We hope Britain continues to support the Peshmerga. The Peshmerga fought on behalf of the world and we continue this battle. We are taking advantage of the experience of countries for reform in the Peshmerga ministry. Through this program, we will reunify the Peshmerga forces.”

The British Consul General to Erbil, Martyn Warr, expressed that the reform would be a slow process but necessary nonetheless. Warr said that,

This will take time. There’s a sense that this will all happen tomorrow – the answer is no. It will take a long time. There are 35 points – they will take many, many years to implement. We’ve started to build capacity so that in time the Peshmerga are able to reform themselves and not rely upon external influence and advisors. So our job at the moment is to build that internal capacity. It’s to turn the Peshmerga into a force that is more able to face the threats of today, but also the future. It was not comprehensible for us to imagine the Peshmerga and other forces would face a threat of the sophistication of Daesh [ISIS] over the last few years. The threats get more complicated all the time and the task of the reform program is to provide the Peshmerga with the human capacity to respond to those threats. It’s not about equipment – it’s about human capacity. To a certain extent we’ll be operating with Baghdad, but above all with the Kurdistan Regional Government. That is the government that is formally and constitutionally responsible for Peshmerga affairs, and here is the minister who has that responsibility. We will be working hand-in-hand with the minister.”

Steve Fagin, who was recently appointed to the United States consulate in Erbil said, “This is critical for the Kurdistan Region to push forward these reforms. We’re there supporting this but we recognize it will take time to implement all of them because this is a rightfully very ambitious program,” echoing his counterpart’s sentiments.

Featured image: Peshmerga soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 1st Regional Guard Brigade, stand in formation during the Modern Brigade Course 2 graduation ceremony at the Menila Training Center, Iraq, July 28, 2016. Representatives from the U.S. Army, which provided equipment, and the Coalition trainers who taught the course attended the graduation to show their support for the battalion. The building partner capacity mission aims to increase the security capacity of local forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kalie Jones