WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – “The Peshmerga are a great force,” possessing the “spirit of a soldier,” Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, the Coalition’s Deputy Commanding General for Transition, said on Wednesday.
Piatt was in Erbil to attend a ceremony at the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTCC), marking a change of command at the center from one member of the Coalition, Germany, to another, Italy.
The ceremony also marked a transfer of authority to CJTF-OIR (Command Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve), the formal name for the Coalition (the KTCC had previously fallen under CJFLCC-OIR, the acronym for Coalition ground forces; CJFLCC-OIR was deactivated at the end of April.)
Piatt explained to Kurdistan 24 that the transfer of authority means that they are able to provide “much better support and much quicker support” to the KTCC, and, by extension, to the Peshmerga.
Piatt was effusive in his praise for the Kurdish forces, as he spoke of a longer term relationship that would extend significantly beyond the current eclipse of the Islamic State (IS) and ensure that the Peshmerga are prepared to fight any threat that might arise in the future.
“Peshmerga forces have that spirit of a fighter,” Piatt said, “those who face death,” translating “Peshmerga” into English.
“Any time you have a force that knows how to fight, that has the spirit of a soldier, that has that inside their soul,” they are “very easy to train.”
“What they need is equipment,” he continued, along with “specialized training in how to use that new equipment.”
Piatt stressed the Coalition’s deep regard for the Kurdish fighters.
“You ask any Coalition member, they have great respect for the Peshmerga,” Piatt affirmed. “We learn also from them. This is not just student and teacher.”
The outgoing head of the KTCC, German Commander Col. Andreas Steinhaus, speaking to Kurdistan 24, explained that IS “is still active, especially in the disputed areas”—a point the Kurdish leadership has repeatedly made.
Therefore, “great efforts” are still needed to secure “a sustainable stability,” which is why “the KTCC will continue with this effort,” Steinhaus said.
Brig. Gen. Roberto Vannacci, the incoming Italian Commander of the KTCC, similarly described the importance of ensuring the final defeat of IS and preventing it, or any similar terrorist organization, from emerging in the future.
Vannacci emphasized the importance of the center’s training role, describing that as its “main mission.”
Piatt noted that there are “great training areas” in the Kurdistan Region, “great training bases.”
“I’ve visited them all recently,” he continued, “and we’re developing a plan to improve the training areas and to improve the training.”
With Wednesday’s transfer of authority, “We’re going to be able to make some significant progress, very soon,” he added.
Piatt hailed the Peshmerga’s “great role” in defeating IS, which “threatened the world” and “all the homelands of every member of the Coalition.”
“We’re proud of what our brothers did to defeat Daesh,” he continued, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
“After Daesh, it’s training,” Piatt explained. “You have to repair the equipment that was damaged” in the fighting. You have to “build your forces back up, and you have to train” and “modernize” and “be prepared for future threats.”
“You cannot just prepare for the threats of yesterday. You have to prepare for a future that’s unknown,” he said. “That’s why training is so important.”
Since last March, Piatt has visited Erbil multiple times, holding at least three meetings with Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council.
Col. Thomas Veale, Director of Public Affairs for CJTF-OIR, provided, via e-mail, a brief summary of their last meeting, on June 4, explaining that Piatt and Barzani had discussed two main issues.
One was cooperation between the Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) “to continue the defeat of [IS] within Iraq,” including “potential future joint operations between the ISF and Peshmerga.”
The other was “continued Coalition training support to the Peshmerga,” as well as “identifying how the training process” might be “refined to meet the future needs of the Peshmerga, as their capacity continues to build.”
That, indeed, is pretty much what the three Coalition officers with whom Kurdistan 24 spoke on Wednesday told us about the KTCC and the plans for its future.
Interviews were conducted by Kurdistan 24 in Erbil.
Editing by Nadia Riva