ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Close to 400 Peshmerga on Wednesday held a parade to celebrate their graduation from the Zakho Military Academy after six months of training.
In a special ceremony attended by several Kurdish officials – among them the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani – and military commanders, 395 Peshmerga from the college’s 24th group of alumni graduated.
The Zakho Military Academy was established in 1996. Since then, the college has had nearly 7,000 graduates among the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army.
The Peshmerga received advanced arms and combat training to prepare them to take up the task of protecting the region from the threats it faces.
According to official numbers, there are currently over 240,000 Peshmerga soldiers in the region who have been protecting over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) of Kurdistan’s border against the Islamic State (IS) since mid-2014.
About 2,000 Peshmerga were killed fighting IS and 12,000 were wounded, according to the Peshmerga Ministry.
The group’s insurgency-style attacks, kidnappings, ambushes, and use of explosives considerably increased in the country since the end of 2017, when Iraq declared final victory against IS.
The insurgency intensified after the attack and military takeover by Iraqi forces and Shia militias over Kirkuk and other disputed territories in October of last year, driving out the Kurdish Peshmerga forces who were protecting the area.
Since then, there has been a substantial security vacuum as a result of the lack of military and security cooperation between Erbil and Baghdad.
Over the past few months, senior Kurdish military officials have warned Baghdad and the international community that the jihadist group is regrouping in disputed areas, namely inside and around the Kirkuk, Diyala, Nineveh, and Salahuddin provinces, all of which are currently under the control of Iraqi forces and Shia militias.
Editing by Nadia Riva