According to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Peshmerga, the United States will be assisting in the inclusion of two new Peshmerga brigades this year; they will be providing weapons, training, and vehicles. The Ministry’s secretary general, Lieutenant General Jabar Yawar, told local Kurdish media that, “Many times, due to disclosing the type and amount of the assistance in media outlets, the Iraqi government and Iran created obstacles for us. We actually have the list of the type and quantity of the arms.”

The assistance program was established by the United States in 2016 when the Islamic State was finally on the defensive as Kurdish and Iraqi military forces began pushing ISIS back. At this time, the Peshmerga’s 1st and 2nd brigades were given arms and equipment by the U.S. led coalition according to Major General Qaraman Kamal. The Ministry of Peshmerga’s deputy chief of staff for operations, Maj. Gen. Kamal stated that, “Giving assistance to the third and fourth brigades of Peshmerga is within the framework of a loan to Iraq, and part of it is for Peshmerga. I believe that the reason why the Iraqi Prime Minister hasn’t given permission for the arms to be sent is due to political reasons. If it isn’t so, why did he give permission for the vehicles to be sent but didn’t do so for the arms?”

Ultimately Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has the majority of the oversight on what the Kurdish Peshmerga will actually receive. Prime Minister Abadi has declared that the Kurdish forces will receive the alotted various vehicles used for military purposes, fuel trucks and ambulances will be included as well. However, Abadi has not approved the weapons yet and given the recent attempted independence referendum by the autonomous region; it’s easy to imagine his hesitation in giving the Kurds more self-reliance.

In the end, it will fall on the United States’ shoulders to convince the Iraqi government to pass the weapons to Kurdish hands. Peshmerga Brigadier General Hazhar Omer spoke to local media saying that, “America has previously sent military assistance for two Peshmerga brigades. It was planned for it to send this to two more Peshmerga brigades. We have been waiting for some time, but unfortunately, the Iraqi government is delaying it, and we are still waiting. The reason is clearly political. The weapons sent so far do not meet all of the needs of the brigades.”

The United States has sought the modernization of Kurdish military forces prior to this as well and has advocated to bringing all of the Peshmerga under the Ministry of Peshmerga’s control. Presently, the Peshmerga are broken up into three divisions. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) 70th Forces, the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) 80th Forces, and the Ministry of Peshmerga’s Forces. While the latter two divisions are both politically affiliated and somewhat indiscriminate or corruptible, the Ministry controlled Peshmerga are recruited through a more thorough vetting process and answer to no one but the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Featured image courtesy of the author.