ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Germany’s Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, on Monday visited German soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Erbil, highlighting the progress of the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
“I am here in Erbil again. It is good to be back with friends,” von der Leyen told reporters in Erbil.
“It was very impressive to see the progress we have made together. I will never forget the courage with which the Peshmerga have beaten and fought against Daesh [IS]. Thanks to the courage of the Peshmerga, it was possible to defeat Daesh.”
The German official landed in the Kurdistan Region on Sunday, late evening, after her recent visit to Iraq’s Taji Camp in the north of Baghdad.
She mentioned that following the military defeat of the jihadist group, it was time to “stabilize successes,” noting the IS ideology is still present.
“And for that, we have to build up Peshmerga to have the capability to protect their people against the ideology of Daesh and to have the capability to be an armed force that is able to have all the possibilities they need for any kind of fight to protect their own people,” the German official said.
She stated the German mission in the Kurdistan Region would undergo some changes.
“We have finished the very first mission. The first mission was an acute fight against Daesh. And again we were deeply impressed about what the Peshmerga were able to perform together. This was an impressive victory.”
The European Union member, in total, had 150 German personnel in the Kurdistan Region over the past few years who were providing training to Peshmerga forces. Germany, now, is aiming to decrease the number.
“We will focus more on specialists. We will go down to a number that’s below 100,” von der Leyen explained.
She also mentioned that now Germany’s Defense Ministry, along with the Peshmerga Ministry, hopes to establish “sustainable structures” to teach modern armed forces necessary functions.
“I remember four years ago, we started with medical advice on a very basic way, just for the survival of the wounded Peshmerga. Today, four years later, we are building, together, a Peshmerga hospital. We are working on the concept to run this Peshmerga hospital,” she added.
“And today we have very modern equipment for the Peshmerga to use by [itself] and to teach others how to use it. So this is a very impressive example of progress.”
The German minister noted that the fight against terrorism is a common interest for almost all countries around the world.
“We are very grateful for the protection we have always got by the Peshmerga here. We are very grateful that you [the Kurdistan Region] are an impressive host. We know there is a certain threat in the area, without any question, that’s why we work together, but we have had proof over the past years that we can rely on each other.”
Over the past few years, the Kurdistan Region, with a population of almost six million people, was home to nearly two million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Regarding ongoing IS attacks in the disputed territories, von der Leyen called on the Iraqi forces and Peshmerga to cooperate to combat insurgency threats in the area.
Editing by Nadia Riva