ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Senior Iraqi military commanders in the parliament in Baghdad on Sunday have agreed to add 68 billion Iraqi dinars to the Defense Ministry’s budget to cover the salaries of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who fought alongside the US-led coalition and Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State over the past few years, a Kurdish lawmaker asserted following the session.
The Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee held a meeting on Sunday to discuss a number of issues.
Iraqi senior military commanders were reportedly present at the meeting in which “participants agreed to add IQD 68 billion to Iraqi Defense Ministry’s budget to be spent on the Peshmerga,” Nasr Harki, a Kurdish lawmaker and a member of the Committee, told Kurdistan 24.
He noted the committee and the Iraqi commanders had recognized the important role Peshmerga forces played in the fight against the jihadist group, most notably in the battle to liberate Mosul and its surrounding areas, and acknowledged the group’s eradication was not yet complete.
The commanders “admitted that Da’esh [the Islamic State] had not been eliminated in some areas yet,” Harki explained. In disputed and liberated areas as well as regions that were previously under the protection of the Peshmerga forces until they were driven out by Iraqi forces and Shia militias in 2017, the Islamic State has resumed activities amid the security cooperation breakdown, local officials and experts have warned.
“There needs to be more cooperation between Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga, as well as an agreement to jointly secure and protect those areas and prevent the re-emergence,” of the Islamic State, Harki argued.
The Peshmerga has been one of the most efficient ground force in the battle against the Islamic State since it emerged. They were instrumental in containing and pushing back the jihadist group in the north of the country.
In the military operation to liberate Mosul, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State, during fall 2016, Peshmerga forces broke the line of defense the group was holding and advanced in the east and north of the city in coordination with Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition.
Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State in December 2017, but its militants continue to carry out insurgent attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings in multiple provinces, including Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh, Salahuddin, Baghdad, and Kirkuk.
“Iraq has reached the point where the Peshmerga forces are a big part of Iraq’s defense system and that, without them, Da’esh cannot be eliminated in some areas,” Harki stressed.
A federal budget accounting for the salaries of the Kurdish Peshmerga has been an ongoing dispute between Erbil and Baghdad over the past decades. It has persisted as Kurdish and Iraqi officials continue to negotiate over the Kurdistan Region’s constitutional rights and entitlements within the framework of a federal Iraqi state.
Editing by Nadia Riva